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Transcript
The Plasmodium 6-cysteine
protein family in sexual and
sporozoite stages:
targets for malaria vaccine development
Ben van Schaijk
The studies in chapter 6-8 were performed within the framework of
Top Institute Pharma (Netherlands) project: T4-102
The Plasmodium 6-cysteine protein
family in sexual and sporozoite stages:
targets for malaria vaccine development
Proefschrift
ter verkrijging van de graad van doctor
aan de Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen
op gezag van de rector magnificus prof. mr. S.C.J.J. Kortmann,
volgens besluit van het college van decanen
in het openbaar te verdedigen op dinsdag 26 juni 2012
om 10.30 uur precies
door
Bernard Constantijn Lambert van Schaijk
geboren op 24 december 1971
te Goirle
Promotor:
Prof. Dr. R.W. Sauerwein
Manuscriptcommissie:
Prof. Dr. H.G. Stunnenberg (voorzitter)
Prof. Dr. M.A. Huijnen
Dr. C.H. Kocken (BPRC, Rijswijk)
Contents
Chapter 1
Introduction
Malaria
The 6-cysteine protein family
6-cysteine members in the life cycle of P. falciparum
The characteristics of 6-cysteine family members
The genome of Plasmodium
Unraveling gene function in Plasmodium
Aim and outline of the thesis
Chapter 2
Three members of the 6-cys protein family of Plasmodium
play a role in gamete fertility
Chapter 3
Pfs47, paralog of the male fertility factor Pfs48/45,
is a female specific surface protein in Plasmodium falciparum
Molecular & Biochemical Parasitology. 2006;149(1):216-222.
Chapter 4
Male and female specific GFP expression in
Plasmodium falciparum parasites
In preparation
Chapter 5
Expression and GPI anchoring of P230 in ΔP48/45
Plasmodium falciparum sexual stage parasites
Chapter 6
Gene disruption of Plasmodium falciparum p52
results in attenuation of malaria liver stage development
in cultured primary human hepatocytes
9
25
PloS Pathogens. 2010;6(4)e1000853.
PloS ONE. 2008;3(10):e3549.
59
75
89
103
Chapter 7
Assessing the adequacy of attenuation of genetically modified
malaria parasite vaccine candidates
125
Vaccine, 2012;30(16):2662-70
Chapter 8
Removal of heterologous sequences from Plasmodium
falciparum mutants using FLPe-Recombinase
PloS ONE. 2010;5(11):e15121.
Chapter 9
General discussion
173
The 6-cysteine protein family is involved in fertilization
Functional redundancy of members of the 6-cysteine protein family
Two 6-cysteine genes as targets for a sporozoite based vaccine
approach
Progress in Plasmodium transfection technology
Considerations and perspectives
Chapter 10
Summary
Samenvatting
Publications
Dankwoord
Curriculum Vitae
153
191
195
198
199
204
Chapter 1
Introduction
Introduction
l
11
Malaria
In 2010, no less than 99 countries are reported to be endemic for the life threatening
disease malaria, which is primarily caused by the parasites Plasmodium falciparum
and Plasmodium vivax [1] and is transmitted to humans by Anopheles mosquitoes. P.
falciparum is the cause of most mortality and although P. vivax is perceived as benign,
both Plasmodia actually account for severe disease [2]. P. falciparum is predominantly
found in sub-Saharan Africa while endemicity of P. vivax is globally more widespread [2].
The economic and social burden of malaria, specifically in underdeveloped countries
remains enormous and it has been suggested that poverty is both the cause and
consequence of malaria endemicity [3].
To control malaria, more and more countries are adopting the policy of free distribution
of insecticide treated bednets (ITN) to all persons at risk. An additional measure to
prevent infectious bites by the female mosquito is to spray the interior walls of houses
with a long lasting insecticide referred to as indoor residual spraying (IRS). This type
of vector control was applied in 71 endemic countries in 2009 to prevent malaria. In
regions with high transmission, intermittent preventive treatment (IPT) with antimalarial
drugs is being used for protection of pregnant women because an increased risk to
malaria during pregnancy results in a substantial number of maternal and infant deaths
[4,5]. For first-line treatment of uncomplicated P. falciparum malaria, artemisinin-based
combination therapy (ACT) is currently used but unfortunately as for most anti-malarial
drugs, resistance of P. falciparum parasites to artemisinin has been reported [6].
These global control efforts have resulted in a reduction of the malaria burden [7] in
all endemic regions. It is estimated that the number of cases of malaria has decreased
from 233 million in the year 2000 to 225 million in 2009. The number of deaths due to
malaria is estimated to have decreased from 985 000 in 2000 to 781 000 in 2009 [5].
Despite these moderate reductions the malaria burden remains enormous. Factors that
prevent the control, elimination and certainly the eradication of malaria by currently
used intervention measures are lack of compliance to treatment, resistance to drugs and
insecticides, the difficulties in reaching a high degree of ITN use and in general the lack of
sufficient funds [5]. An integrated research approach has been proposed by the malaria
research community to improve diagnostics, gain more epidemiological knowledge and
create new intervention measures. These intervention measures include both vector
12
l
Chapter 1
control, development of new drugs for prophylaxis and treatment, and vaccine research
which focuses on vaccines that interrupt malaria transmission of both P. falciparum and
P. vivax [8,9].
Recently, the RTS,S vaccine has entered phase III trials as it has been shown to prevent
clinical and severe disease in Phase II trials. Prolonged protection from infection by
RTS,S was however, only around 30-50% during laboratory and field trials [10,11]. More
efficacious vaccines are urgently needed to also lower the transmission rates below the
threshold required for maintaining a parasite reservoir. The Plasmodium parasite has a
complex life cycle and from an evolutionary perspective, the parasite has to be able to
adapt rapidly to different circumstances in both the Anopheles vector and the human
host, including evasion from the immune system. Application of an individual protein as
effective target for a vaccine may therefore be difficult to achieve and more basic scientific
knowledge is necessary to find and exploit weaknesses in the lifecycle of the malaria
parasite. The interesting 6-cysteine protein family, identified in Plasmodium, includes
some members that were found to be essential for parasite transmission and this unique
protein family may provide additional targets for malaria vaccine development.
The 6-cysteine protein family
This thesis describes the analysis of several of the ten members of the 6-cysteine (6-cys)
protein family which has classically been described as a protein family that is found only
in Plasmodium parasites [12,13]. Previously, the Toxoplasma gondii SAG proteins were
predicted to have an evolutionary relationship with the Plasmodium 6-cys family [14]
and subsequent genome sequencing revealed the presence of 6-cys proteins in other
organisms. The Plasmodia and Toxoplasma belong to the phylum of Apicomplexans
and recently in another Apicomplexan, Babesia bovis, the Bbo-6cys proteins showed
homology to the Plasmodium 6-cys proteins [15]. The 6-cys family is conserved
throughout all Plasmodium species and is characterized by partially conserved cysteine
rich double domains that are about 350 amino acids in length. The domains have one to
three cysteine bridges between the 6 cysteine amino acid residues, contributing to the
tertiary structure of these proteins. The ten members of the 6-cys family are expressed
during distinct stages throughout the life cycle (see below). Most of the proteins are
expected to localize to the surface of the parasite and some are known to play a role
Introduction
l
13
sporozoites
P52, P36
liver stage
oocyst
P12, P12p, P41
P38
fertilization
of gametes
asexual
stage
P48/45, P47,P230
sexual
stage
P48/45, P47,P230
P230p, P36
Figure 1. The 10 members of the 6-cysteine protein family expressed during the life cycle of P.
falciparum.
in cell-cell interaction [12,13,14,16,17,18,19,20,21]. These specific characteristics make
this an interesting protein family for analysis of the biology of the parasite but also as
possible vaccine targets.
6-cysteine members in the life cycle of P. falciparum
From the human perspective, the life cycle of the malaria parasite Plasmodium
falciparum begins when an infected female mosquito takes a blood meal from a
human host thereby injecting, combined with saliva, infectious sporozoites into the
bloodstream and subcutaneous tissue. Sporozoites express the 6-cys proteins P52 and
P36 [21] (Fig 1). A proportion of the sporozoites are carried through the bloodstream
14
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Chapter 1
and end up in the liver sinusoid where they migrate through Kupffer cells and traverse
through hepatocytes before colonizing inside a hepatocyte. During the invasion process
a host derived membrane is formed around the parasite, the parasitophorous vacuole
membrane (PVM), and the parasite remains inside this compartment the so called
parasitophorous vacuole (PV). Inside the hepatocyte, parasites multiply rapidly and form
tens of thousands of merozoites which are initially released into the bloodstream as
merosomes after 7 days. The presence of parasites in the bloodstream is responsible for
clinical malaria symptoms. Merozoites, expressing the 6-cys proteins P12, P38 and P41
[19,21]rapidly infect red blood cells and through a 43 hour asexual replication cycle the
parasites exponentially multiply. The asexual parasites also reside inside a PV within a
red blood cell and express the 6-cys protein P12p. Through as of yet unknown molecular
mechanisms a proportion of the asexual parasites differentiate into sexual forms.
The sexual stage is characterized by the development of male and female gametocytes
inside the red blood cell. The complete maturation of gametocytes takes 7 days and
5 stages of development (I-V) are distinguished with stage V representing the mature
gametocyte [22]. During gametocyte development the 6-cys proteins P230, P230p,
P48/45 and P47 are expressed [12,13]. As a mosquito takes a blood meal mature
gametocytes can be ingested, triggering the gametocytes to activate and emerge
from the red blood cell as mature gametes. Inside the mosquito, the male gametocyte
exflagellates thereby producing eight motile gametes which fertilize the emerged and
rounded female gametes. P48/45 and P230 are expressed on the surface of gametes.
Following fertilization, the zygote, the only diploid stage of the P. falciparum parasite is
formed (other stages are haploid). Inside the mosquito midgut the zygote progresses to
a motile ookinete which is able to traverse the midgut epithelium and form an oocyst
outside the midgut epithelium. Inside the oocyst the sporozoites are formed and when
the oocyst bursts, the mature sporozoites migrate to the salivary glands. The infectious
sporozoites can re-infect another human host after the mosquito takes a blood meal
thereby completing the P. falciparum life cycle.
Introduction
l
15
The characteristics of 6-cysteine family members
Two members of the 6-cys family, P48/45 and P230, form a complex localized on the
surface of gametes and are recognized as important targets for transmission-blocking
vaccines (for review see [9,23]). The concept of such a vaccine is that antibodies
induced against gamete surface proteins, are able to prevent gamete fertilization and
zygote formation when these antibodies are ingested with the mosquito blood meal.
Transmission of the parasite to the mosquito is thereby prevented and blockade of the
malaria life cycle conceivable. Transmission blocking activity by P48/45 antibodies has
been studied extensively [24,25,26,27] and after establishment of proof of concept in
animal studies the P48/45 recombinant protein is now being produced to further study
feasibility as a transmission blocking vaccine [28,29]. Deletion mutants of p48/45 have
been described in both P. berghei and P. falciparum showing that P48/45 is essential for
male fertility [30]. Eight proteins of the 6-cysteine family occur in closest-paralog pairs
that are organized as a tandem repeat (head to tail) within the genome (Fig 2). These
paralogous gene pairs originated through duplication of parts of the genome but the
proteins may have gained different function and expression patterns during the time
P. falciparum
chromosome
S
6C
6C A S
IR
6C
PF13_0248
P47
IR
PF13_0247
6C A
13
6C A
5
6C A
6
6C
4
P48/45
S
6C
IR
PFE0395C
P38
S
6C A
6C
S
P12
P12p
S
6C
IR
6C
PFD0240c
P41
S
6C IR 6C IR 6C IR 6C IR 6C
PFB0400w
P230p
~24kb
S
6C
6C
PFF0615c
PFF0620c
6C
A
PFD0215c
S
6C
PFD0210c
P36
P52
S R R IR 6C IR 6C IR 6C IR 6C IR 6C IR 6C
PFB0405w
2
P230
Figure 2. Genomic localization of the 6-cys paralog gene pairs. Indicated are the chromosome numbers
on which the respective 6-cys genes are located, the 6-cysteine domains (6c), signal sequences (s),
intergenic regions (ir), repetitive regions of P230 which is cleaved from the mature protein (r) and
the GPI anchor sequences (a). P12 is shown as an example of the basic tertiary structure of the 6-cys
domain [14] (with permission of PNAS Copyright (2005) National Academy of Sciences, USA).
16
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Chapter 1
course of evolution. The paralog of p48/45 is p47 which is located 1.5 kb upstream of
p48/45 on chromosome 13 in P. falciparum. The function and expression pattern of P47
is still unknown.
The other well studied member of the 6-cys protein family is P230 and antibodies specific
for this protein are able to block transmission but only by complement dependent lysis
of gametes [31,32,33]. The paralog of P230 is P230p and while P230 is expressed in both
male and female gametocytes, P230p is described as a male specific protein for which
the function is not yet investigated [34]. Three merozoite specific 6-cys proteins, P12,
P38 and P41 have been identified and these antigens are recognized by serum from
naturally infected individuals, similar to P48/45 and P230. P38 was specifically located in
the secretory apical organelles [18]. The function of P12 and P12p, P38 and P41 has not
yet been analyzed. The function of both sporozoite specific 6-cys proteins P52 and P36
[21,35] also remains elusive.
Recently, the structure of the 6-cysteine domain has been analyzed by comparative
modeling. Through similarity with the SAG1 protein of Toxoplasma gondii, the first cysteine
in this domain is predicted to bond with the second cysteine, the next cysteine bond is
between the third and sixths cysteine followed by the fourth and fifth cysteine. These
bonds lead to the basic tertiary structure of the 6-cysteine protein family as depicted for
P12 (Fig 2) [13,14]. The unique features and stage specific expression patterns of the 6-cys
family merit further investigation into the members of this family for which the function
still remains elusive. The classic approach to study protein localization and function is by
generation of specific antibodies. This approach however, relies largely on the chance of
obtaining antibodies directed at essential/functional epitopes of the protein of interest.
With increasing knowledge of the genome organization of P. falciparum and recent
establishment of systems to specifically disrupt genes in Plasmodium we choose a more
targeted approach to study gene function of selected members of the 6-cys family.
The genome of Plasmodium
Better understanding of the biology of the malaria parasite has taken a leap forward
since the sequencing of the P. falciparum genome was completed. The sequence is
based on the widely used reference clone 3D7 derived from the NF54 Amsterdam airport
Introduction
l
17
strain which was adapted to culture in Nijmegen [36]. The genome of P. falciparum is
organized in 14 chromosomes, is extremely AT rich (~80%) and is predicted to contain
over 5300 genes [37]. The completed sequence information and ongoing improvements
to annotation are available at different websites such as http://plasmodb.org, which was
introduced in the year 2000. Genome wide functional genomics studies (e.g. microarray)
are able to determine the onset of gene expression of individual genes during different
life cycle stages of the parasite. Even the products of these genes, the proteins could now
be analyzed and attributed back to genes based on the database, in the emerging field of
proteomics. The function of many P. falciparum genes has been predicted by analyzing
the homology of parasite genes to known genes from other well studied organisms such
as humans, plants or yeast. Although many predictions in gene function can be made in
this way the Plasmodium genome contains many genes to which a function cannot be
attributed, so called hypothetical genes. Moreover, these approaches do not provide any
direct evidence for the function of the gene in the parasite. A more targeted approach is
necessary to provide definitive proof of the function of a gene product.
Unraveling gene function in Plasmodium
Using molecular biology, a gene of interest identified in the P. falciparum sequence
database can be studied in several ways. A commonly used molecular approach
to determine the onset of gene expression in the parasite is specific regulation of
reporter genes which are located on plasmids. The regulatory DNA sequence of a
gene of interest (GOI) is therefore placed in front of a reporter gene. Commonly used
reporter proteins are fluorescent proteins such as green fluorescent protein (GFP) and
Cherry, or bioluminescense using luciferase (Fig 3D). Protein localization is studied
by producing recombinant proteins using the sequence database and subsequently
including a DNA sequence in the open reading frame (ORF) that encodes protein tags.
High affinity antibodies exist such as α-c-myc tags, α-V5 tags and α-poly-his tags which
bind specifically to these protein tags. Larger fusion proteins such as GFP fused to a GOI
may also be generated although interference of protein function can occur.
The most important approach for studies of gene function is the analysis of gene
mutations. The classical or forward genetics approach, screens for a certain phenotypic
trait in an organism after random induction of mutations. The gene responsible for the
18
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Chapter 1
phenotype is subsequently identified. After the complete sequencing of the Plasmodium
falciparum genome, the reverse approach has become possible. A selected gene of
interest from the database can now be analyzed. Reverse genetics, has become an
indispensible approach to study the function of a particular gene. A prerequisite for these
studies is the ability to introduce foreign genetic material (DNA) located on plasmids into
the parasite nucleus which is commonly referred to as transfection.
B
A
-SEL
+SEL
SXO
Pf DXO
plasmid
target
plasmid
+SEL
Target1
Target2
wt
wt
GOI
GOI
ko
ko
ΔGOI
ΔGOI
ΔGOI
D
C
Target2
Target1
POI
plasmid
Reporter
plasmid
+SEL
Pb DXO
wt
GOI
ko
POI
reporter
gene
ΔGOI
Figure 3. Site specific integration strategies and reporter genes in Plasmodium (a) Single cross over
disruption. An insertion plasmid containing a truncated copy (target) of the gene of interest (GOI)
is integrated through a single cross over homologous recombination event into the GOI. The whole
construct is thereby inserted into the genome leading to two non-functional parts of the gene (ΔGOI),
one missing the C-terminal part and one missing the N-terminal part. Indicated is the positive selection
marker cassette (+sel (e.g. in pDT-Tg23, Tgdhfr confers resistance to pyrimethamine [46])) (b and c)
Double cross over (DXO) deletion of genes is accomplished by using two target regions flanking the
GOI. In P. falciparum the whole plasmid is first integrated through SXO at target 1 and subsequently a
second cross over between target 2 completes the DXO deletion and replacement by the +sel marker.
As a result of the second cross over, the negative selection cassette (–sel) is deleted from the parasite
genome and only parasites that have lost –sel are able to survive associated drug pressure (e.g. fcu –sel
confers sensitivity to 5-fc [52]) In P. berghei, parasites are transfected using linearized DNA plasmids
resulting in direct DXO (d) A reporter plasmid is generated by PCR amplification of a promoter sequence
of interest (POI) and placing it in front of a reporter gene (GFP, luciferase). Following transfection the
reporter gene is expressed at the same time as the endogenous gene. The reporter plasmid can be
used episomally and/or integrated into the genome by SXO or DXO integration.
Introduction
l
19
The primary method to accomplish transfection in Plasmodium (reviewed in [38,39]) is by
electroporation which generates temporary pores in the cell membrane through which
DNA can enter the cell. DNA can be transfected transiently inside the parasite eliciting
a temporary effect or be maintained stably by integration in the genome where it is
maintained during replication. In both cases transfected parasites are generally selected
using resistance genes which confer resistance to an antimalarial compound. In order to
transfect Plasmodium parasites which reside inside the red blood cell in a PV, plasmids
containing the desired genetic elements have to be transferred over 4 membranes to
reach the parasite nucleus (i.e. red blood cell membrane, parasitophorous vacuole
membrane, parasite membrane and the parasite nuclear envelope). These barriers
make transfection of Plasmodium parasites a huge challenge. Moreover, the extremely
high A/T content of the Plasmodium genome provides difficulties in preparation of
transfection constructs because these sequences are not well tolerated in E.Coli which is
commonly used for this purpose.
In Plasmodium research, transient transfection was first accomplished in the sexual
stages of P. gallinacium [40] and in asexual stages of P. falciparum [41]. Maintenance
of the plasmids in the parasites was however, short lived. For biological studies stable
transformation is needed and this was first accomplished in P. berghei where plasmids
containing a drug selectable marker (the dhfr-ts gene from a pyrimethamine resistant
strain of P. berghei) were maintained for over 40 generations using pyrimethamine
drug pressure [42]. Later transformation of the primate Plasmodia, P. knowlesi and
P. cynomolgi was also accomplished [43,44]. Although these transfection studies in
different malaria parasites are valuable methods to study the control of gene expression,
it does not necessarily provide elucidation of protein function (i.e. no deletion of genes).
Therefore, integration into the genome of engineered plasmid DNA is imperative.
Soon after these first transfection studies two publications reported integration of
exogenous DNA in the genome of malaria parasites. In P. berghei a linearized plasmid
conferring resistance to pyrimethamine was integrated in the 2.3kb repeat regions of
telomeres [45]. In P. falciparum the hrp3 and hrp2 genes were targeted by integrating
the plasmid pDT.Tg23 in the respective loci through a single homologous recombination
event termed single cross over (SXO) integration [46] (Fig 3A). Double cross over (DXO)
integration was introduced in P. falciparum much later by applying a positive negative
selection procedure [47]. This method is important because only the DXO approach
physically deletes the targeted gene (Fig 3B), while the SXO approach only disrupts
20
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Chapter 1
the gene of interest. The disadvantage of SXO gene disruption is that the same way
the disrupting plasmid is integrated through homologous recombination it can again
recombine with the endogenous targeting sequence thereby looping itself out of the
genome. The gene of interest is then reconstituted and as a result, the mutant parasite
has undergone reversion back to the wild type genotype. Although this process occurs at
low frequency it can clearly influence the outcome of gene function studies [48].
In the Apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii which is closely related to Plasmodium,
transfection efficiency is higher than 10-2 and both random and targeted genome
alterations are routinely performed including complex molecular approaches [49].
Unfortunately, transfection efficiencies of P. falciparum blood stage parasites have
been estimated as low as a frustrating 10-6. The only stage of P. falciparum which can
be transfected is the early ring stage, which means that the plasmids have to cross four
membranes to reach the parasite nucleus (as described above). This low transfection
efficiency also means that molecular approaches common for example in Toxoplasma
gondii are for now inconceivable in P. falciparum.
P. berghei parasites on the other hand can be temporarily maintained in vitro at the
mature schizont stage and transfection targets merozoites directly [42,45]. By transfecting
the merozoite stages the only barriers are the parasite plasma membrane and the
nuclear envelope. The transfection efficiencies of P. berghei are thus considerably higher
compared to P. falciparum where maintaining the schizont stage is not possible. The only
stages amenable to transfection in P. falciparum are ring stage asexual parasites[41,46].
An additional advantage of P. berghei transfections is that linear DNA can be transfected
resulting in direct DXO integration into the target regions of the genome (Fig 3C)
[38,39]. More recently even higher transformation efficiencies of P. berghei parasites
have been described by using AMAXA nucleofector technology [50]. This high efficiency
transfection in the order 10-2 to 10-4 offers advantages in the number of parasites required
for transfection, the amount of DNA needed and of course the speed of selection of
integration. The increased efficiency was exploited by transfection of parasites with a
GFP reporter cassette enabling fluorescence activated cell sorting (FACS) of transfected
parasites [51]. Currently, P. berghei is favored as the genetic model organism for gene
function analysis in Plasmodium research. Important gene function analyses performed
in P. berghei can subsequently be transferred to the more difficult and time consuming
molecular genetics in P. falciparum because although many genes are conserved there
Introduction
l
21
are also many differences between these two malaria species. Therefore findings in P.
berghei always need confirmation in the most clinically relevant species of malaria, P.
falciparum.
Aim and outline of the thesis
The ten members of the 6-cysteine (6-cys) family contain unique protein domains
and are expressed during distinct stages throughout the parasite life cycle. Most 6-cys
members are expected to localize to the parasite surface and some are known to play
a role in cell-cell interactions. The distinct characteristics of the 6-cys family may reflect
important biological functions and merits detailed studies particularly in light of possible
vaccine development. We here explore the function of several members of the 6-cys
protein family both in P. berghei and in P. falciparum. The overall objective is to elucidate
their role in parasite biology and find possible applications to interrupt the parasite life
cycle. We use a reverse genetics approach to investigate selected members of the 6-cys
protein family from the sexual stage and the sporozoite stage.
The first part of the thesis addresses the study of specific 6-cys proteins expressed during
the sexual stages. Gene deletion studies are used to identify essential members of the
6-cys family for transmission to the mosquito that as such are potential transmission
blocking vaccine candidates. In chapter two the function of P47, P230 and P48/45 is
studied in the rodent malaria model, P. berghei. In chapter three we address the
function of P47 in fertility and zygote formation in P. falciparum. Chapter four focuses
on the discrimination between male and female gametocytes to be able to study
sexual differentiation of P. falciparum parasites using male and female specific reporter
parasites. In subsequent experiments genes may be identified which are specifically
involved in male or female biological processes such as gene replication, fertility and
preparation for zygote/ookinete development inside the mosquito. The 6-cys family
members P48/45 and P230 form a complex on the surface of gametocytes and chapter
five studies the importance of this interaction by genetic modification of p230 in the
background of p48/45 disrupted parasites.
22
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Chapter 1
The second part of the thesis focuses on the 6-cys protein members expressed at the
sporozoite stage. In chapter six the function of P. falciparum p52 in sporozoites and
during liver stage development is analyzed by gene deletion and we hypothesize that
genetically attenuated sporozoites may form the basis of a live attenuated malaria
vaccine. Chapter seven explores the suitability and safety of using these sporozoites as
a live attenuated sporozoite vaccine and we hypothesize that multiple genes need to be
deleted to obtain fully attenuated sporozoites. In chapter eight we therefore develop
a novel transfection approach to P. falciparum to enable sequential gene deletions
within the same parasite line and also address safety issues associated with the use of
genetically modified parasites in humans as a malaria vaccine. The results presented in
this thesis are summarized and discussed in chapter nine.
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Chapter 2
Three members of the 6-cys protein family
of Plasmodium play a role in gamete fertility
Melissa R. van Dijk1†, Ben C.L. van Schaijk2†, Shahid M. Khan1, Maaike W. van
Dooren1, Jai Ramesar1, Szymon Kaczanowski3, Geert-Jan van Gemert2, Hans
Kroeze1, Hendrik G Stunnenberg4, Wijnand M. Eling2, Robert W. Sauerwein2,
Andrew P. Waters5 and Chris J. Janse1
†
These authors contributed equally to this study.
Laboratory for Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands.
3
Institute of Biochemistry and Biophysics, Polish Academy of Sciences, Pawinskiego 5a, 02-106 Warszawa,
Poland
4
Department of Molecular Biology, NCMLS, University of Nijmegen, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
5
Division of Infection and Immunity, Institute of Biomedical Life Sciences & Wellcome Centre for Molecular
Parasitology, Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre, University of Glasgow, Scotland.
1
2
PloS Pathogens. 2010;6(4)e1000853
26 l Chapter 2
Abstract
The process of fertilization is critically dependent on the mutual recognition of gametes
and in Plasmodium, the male gamete surface protein P48/45 is vital to this process. This
protein belongs to a family of 10 structurally related proteins, the so called 6-cys family.
To identify the role of additional members of this family in Plasmodium fertilisation,
we performed genetic and functional analysis on the five members of the 6-cys family
that are transcribed during the gametocyte stage of P. berghei. This analysis revealed
that in addition to P48/45, two members (P230 and P47) also play an essential role
in the process of parasite fertilization. Mating studies between parasites lacking P230,
P48/45 or P47 demonstrate that P230, like P48/45, is a male fertility factor, consistent
with the previous demonstration of a protein complex containing both P48/45 and P230.
In contrast, disruption of P47 results in a strong reduction of female fertility, while males
remain unaffected. Further analysis revealed that gametes of mutants lacking expression
of p48/45 or p230 or p47 are unable to either recognise or attach to each other.
Disruption of the paralog of p230, p230p also specifically expressed in gametocytes,
had no observable effect on fertilization. These results indicate that the P. berghei 6-cys
family contains a number of proteins that are either male or female specific ligands that
play an important role in gamete recognition and/or attachment. The implications of
low levels of fertilisation that exist even in the absence of these proteins, indicating
alternative pathways of fertilisation, as well as positive selection acting on these proteins
are discussed in the context of targeting these proteins as transmission blocking vaccine
candidates.
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 27
Introduction
Sexual reproduction is an obligate process in the Plasmodium life cycle and is required
for transmission of the parasites between the vertebrate and mosquito hosts. The
sexual phase is initiated by the formation of male and female cells (gametocytes) in
the blood of the vertebrate host. Gametocytes are the precursors to the haploid male
and female gametes that are produced in the mosquito midgut where fertilisation takes
place. Successful fertilisation requires an ordered series of gamete-gamete interactions,
specifically, the recognition of and adhesion to the female gamete by the motile male
gamete, followed by a cascade of signalling events resulting from the fusion of the two
gametes.
Despite their fundamental importance, relatively little is known about gamete receptors/
ligands and their involvement in the process of gamete interactions of eukaryotes [1,2],
which is partly due to their rapid evolution and species-specific characteristics [3]. In
Plasmodium the involvement of two gamete specific surface proteins P48/45 and HAP2/
GCS1 has been demonstrated in male fertility and these proteins are to date the only
known proteins with a demonstrable role in gamete-gamete interaction [4,5,6]. Parasites
lacking P48/45 produce male gametes that fail to attach to fertile female gametes [4]
while male gametes lacking of HAP2/GCS1 do attach to females, but they do not fuse due
to an absence of membrane fusion between the two gametes [5]. P48/45 is one member
of a family of proteins encoded within the genome of Plasmodium and this family is
characterised by domains of roughly 120 amino acids in size that contain six positionally
conserved cysteines (6-cys). The 6-cys family of proteins appears to be Apicomplexan
specific and has a predicted relationship to the SAG proteins in Toxoplasma gondii
[7,8,9,10,11]. Ten members of the 6-cys family have been identified. Most members are
expressed in a discrete stage-specific manner in gametocytes, sporozoites or merozoites
[8,12,13,14,15,16]. The surface location of members of this family and their expression
in gametes or in invasive stages (sporozoites and merozoites) suggests that they function
in cell-cell interactions as has been shown for P48/45 in gamete adhesion. In addition
to P48/45, five other 6-cys genes are transcribed in gametocytes, three of which (p230,
p230p and p47) are exclusively expressed in the gamete stages of the malaria parasite
[4,8,10,12,16,17,18,19], indicating that these members of the gene family may also play
a role in the process of gamete recognition and fertilisation. Indeed specific antibodies
28 l Chapter 2
against the sexual stages of the human parasite Plasmodium falciparum, P48/45
and P230 can prevent zygote formation and thus block transmission of the parasite
[19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26]. Interestingly, P. falciparum mutants lacking P230 expression
produce male gametes that fail to attach to erythrocytes resulting in a reduced formation
of the characteristic ‘exflagellation centres’ and reduced oocyst formation in mosquitoes
[27]. In order to investigate the role of the 6-cys proteins in parasite fertilisation we
performed genetic and functional analysis on the five 6-cys proteins that are expressed
in gametocytes. In this paper, we present evidence that in addition to P48/45, two 6-cys
members (P230 and P47) also have an essential role in parasite fertilization. Interestingly,
in P. falciparum evidence has been published that P48/45, P47 and P230 are under
positive selection resulting in non-neutral sequence polymorphisms [28,29,30,31]. By
sequence analysis, we provide evidence that these three 6-cys proteins are undergoing
strong but different rates of positive selection, either as a consequence sexual-selection
driven by the competition between gametes or from natural selection exerted by the
adaptive immune system of the host on proteins expressed in gametocytes.
Materials and Methods
Parasites
The gametocyte-producer clone cl15cy1 (HP) of P. berghei ANKA was used as the reference
parasite line [32]. In addition, the following mutant lines of the ANKA strain were used: 2.33,
a non-gametocyte producer (NP) line [33] and 137cl8 (RMgm-15, www.pberghei.eu), a mutant
lacking expression of P48/45 [4].
Generation of mutants deficient in expressing 6-cys family members
To disrupt genes encoding different members of the 6-cys family, we constructed a number
replacement constructs using plasmid pL0001 (www.mr4.com) which contains the pyrimethamine
resistant Toxoplasma gondii (tg) dhfr/ts as a selectable-marker cassette (SC). Target sequences for
homologous recombination were PCR amplified from P. berghei genomic DNA (ANKA, cl15cy1)
using primers specific for the 5’ or 3’ end of the different 6-cys genes (see Table S1 for the
sequence of the different primers). The PCR–amplified target sequences were cloned in plasmid
pL0001 either upstream or downstream of the SC to allow for integration of the construct into the
genomic target sequence by homologous recombination. DNA constructs used for transfection
were obtained after digestion of the replacement constructs with the appropriate restriction
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 29
enzymes (Table S1). Replacement constructs pL1138 (p47) and pL0123 (p36), were constructed
using replacement plasmid pDB.DT^H.DB [34] and plasmid pL0121 (p47&48/45) was constructed in
the previously described replacement plasmid for disruption of pb48/45 (plasmid p54 is renamed
here to pL1137; [4]). This plasmid was made by exchanging the 5’ pb48/45 targeting sequence
with the 5’ targeting sequence of pb47. The p230pII replacement construct pL0120 is a derivative
of plasmid pL0016 [35] containing the tgdhfr-ts SC, gfp (under control of the pbeef1aa promoter
and 3’UTR of pbdhfr/ts) and p230p 5’ and 3’ targeting sequences[36]. Transfection, selection
and cloning of mutant parasite lines were performed as described [32,37] using P. berghei ANKA
cl15cy1 as the parent reference line. For all mutants with an observable phenotype, mutants
were generated and selected in two independent transfection experiments (Table S1). Of each
transfection experiment we selected one cloned line for further genotype and phenotype analysis.
Correct integration of the construct into the genome of mutant parasites was analysed by
standard PCR analysis and Southern blot analysis of digested genomic DNA or of FIGE separated
chromosomes[32]. PCR analysis on genomic DNA was performed using specific primers to amplify
either part of the wild type locus (primers WT1 and 2) or the disrupted locus (primers INT1 and 2).
See Table S2 for the sequence of these primers.
Analysis of expression by Northern and Western analysis
Total RNA was isolated from the different blood stage parasites of the gametocyte-producer clone
cl15cy1 of P. berghei ANKA (HP), the non-gametocyte producer line 2.33 (NP) and the different
mutant lines according to standard methods. To determine stage-specific transcription of the 6-cys
family members, Northern blots containing RNA from different blood stages were hybridised with
different gene specific probes, which were PCR-amplified using the primers shown in Table S2
(primer pairs WT1+ 2). To detect expression of the P48/45 protein we used polyclonal antiserum
raised against recombinant P. berghei P48/45 as described[4]. For detection of P47 we generated
the following polyclonal antiserum; a fragment of the Pb47 ORF (encoding amino acids 80-411)
was PCR-amplified using primers L964 and L965 (Table S2) and cloned into the NdeI/BamHI sites
of the expression vector pET-15b (Novagen) providing an N-terminal 6-Histidine tag. Polyclonal
antiserum was raised in New Zealand rabbits by injection of 200 µg of gel-purified recombinant
protein. Boosting was carried out subcutaneously with 3-weeks intervals using 200 µg protein in
incomplete Freund’s adjuvant. Serum (P47) obtained 2 weeks after the third boost was immunopurified on immobilised purified recombinant P47. To detect P48/45 and P47 in the different
mutant lines, total protein samples of purified gametocytes were fractionated on non-reducing
10% SDS polyacrylamide gels.
Phenotype analysis of parasite lines lacking expression of 6-cys gene
family members
The fertility of wild type and mutant gamete populations was analysed by standard in vitro
fertilisation and ookinete maturation assays [4,17] from highly pure gametocyte populations [38].
The fertilisation rate of gametes is defined as the percentage of female gametes that develop
into mature ookinetes determined by counting female gametes and mature ookinetes in Giemsa
stained blood smears 16-18 hours after in vitro induction of gamete formation. Fertility of individual
30 l Chapter 2
sexes (macro- and micro-gametes) was determined by in vitro cross-fertilisation studies in which
gametes are cross-fertilised with gametes of lines that produce only fertile male (Δp47; 270cl1) or
only fertile female gametes (Δp48/45; 137cl1 [4,17,39]. All fertilisation and ookinete maturation
assays were done in triplicate on multiple occasions in independent experiments. In vivo ookinete,
oocyst and salivary gland sporozoite production of the mutant parasites were determined by
performing standard mosquito infections by feeding of Anopheles stephensi mosquitoes on
infected mice [40]. Oocyst numbers and salivary gland sporozoites were counted at 7-10 days and
21-22 days respectively after mosquito infection. For counting sporozoites, salivary glands from 10
mosquitoes were dissected and homogenized in a homemade glass grinder in 1000µl of PBS pH 7.2
and sporozoites were counted in a Bürker-Türk counting chamber using phase-contrast microscopy
[41]. Infectivity of sporozoites was determined by infecting mice through bites of 25-30 infected
mosquitoes at day 21-25 after mosquito infection.
The formation of exflagellation centres (i.e. male gamete interactions with red blood cells) was
determined by adding 10µl of infected tail blood to 100-300 µl of standard ookinete culture
medium pH 8.2 to induce gamete formation. Ten minutes after induction of gamete formation
a droplet of 5-10 µl was placed on a cover slip and analysed under a standard light microscope
(40X magnification) as a hanging-drop using a well slide. When red blood cells were settled in a
monolayer, the number of exflagellating male gametocytes was counted that form or did not form
exflagellation centres. An exflagellation centre is defined as an exflaggelating male gametocyte
with more than four tightly associated red blood cells [27]. The formation of exflagellation centres
was performed using tail blood collected at day 6 or 7 from mice that were infected with 105
parasites without treatment with phenylhydrazine. For quantification of male-female interactions
tail blood was collected from phenylhydrazine-treated mice with high numbers of gametocytes[42].
Tail blood (10µl) was collected at gametocytemias ranging between 4-8% and added to 100µl of
standard ookinete culture medium pH 8.2 to induce gamete formation. Ten minutes after induction
of gamete formation, the cell suspension was placed in a Bürker-Türk counting chamber and during
a period of twenty minutes the male-female interactions were scored using a phase-contrast light
microscope at a 40x magnification. Attachments of males to females were scored if the male had
active (attachment-) interactions with the female for more than 3 seconds. Penetration of a female
by the male gamete was scored as a fertilisation event.
Polymorphisms and sequence divergence of the Plasmodium 6-cys genes
Pairwise alignments were generated between the orthologous sequences of p48/45, p47 and
p230 genes in P. berghei, P. yoelii and P. chabaudi; sequences were obtained from PlasmoDB
(http://www.plasmodb.org version 6.1; see Table S3 for the accession numbers of the 6-cys
gene family members). Complete gene sequences for a number of these genes were obtained
from the Sanger Institute (A. Pain, personal communication). Maximum-likelihood estimates of
rates of non-synonymous substitution (dN) and synonymous substitution (dS) between pairwise
alignments were generated using the PAML algorithm (version 3.14; [43,44]) using a codon-based
model of sequence evolution [45,46], with dN and dS as free parameters and average nucleotide
frequencies estimated from the data at each codon position (F3 x 4 MG model [47]). For this analysis
we assumed a transition/transversion bias (i.e. kappa value) that had been estimated previously
and found to be similar in case of P. falciparum and P. yoelii, i.e. 1.53[48]. A sliding window analysis
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 31
of dN/dS ratios was performed of p230, p47 and p48/45 from the three rodent parasites. We
analysed the dN/dS values of these genes across their length by analysing sequentially 300bp
of the gene in 150bp steps. This analysis is essentially the same as the calculation of π (i.e. the
number segregating or polymorphic sites) described for p48/45 in distinct P. falciparum isolates
described by Escalante et al. [29]. We obtained the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) data
identified from field and laboratory isolates of P. falciparum (excluding all P. reichenowi SNPs)
from PlasmoDB (www.PlasmoDB.org). The alignment of these SNPs along the different genes
(to scale) was extracted from the Genome Browser page of PlasmoDB. The locations of the SNPs
were aligned onto the schematic representation of the 6-cys genes of the rodent parasites. It
should be noted that the alignment of the p230 gene of the different Plasmodium species was
only possible around 1008bp after the putative start site. In order to determine which residues
of p230, p47 and p48/45 genes were under positive selection in the rodent malaria parasites, a
Bayes Empirical Bayes (BEB) analysis was performed using sequences from the 3 rodent genomes
and was calculated as described in Yang et al. [49]. To test which genes were undergoing positive
selection the likelihood ratio test (LRT) was performed using a comparison of site specific models
of evolution [50,51]. This test compares a ‘nearly neutral’ model (without any residues under
positive selection) and a ‘positive selection’ model (with residues under positive selection and
therefore under adaptive evolution). Both models assume that there are different categories of
codons, which evolve with different speeds. The ‘nearly neutral’ model assumes two categories
of sites at which amino acid replacements are either neutral (dN/dS=1) or deleterious (dN/dS<1).
The ‘positive-selection’ model assumes an additional category of positively selected sites at which
non-synonymous substitutions occur at a higher rate than synonymous ones (dN/dS>1). Likelihood
values indicate how well a model fits to the analyzed alignment and answers the question if the
‘positive selection’ model fits better to the analyzed alignment than the ‘nearly neutral’ model.
Animal Ethics Statement
All animal experiments were performed after a positive recommendation of the Animal
Experiments Committee of the LUMC (ADEC) was issued to the licensee. The Animal Experiment
Committees are governed by section 18 of the Experiments on Animals Act and are registered by
the Dutch Inspectorate for Health, Protection and Veterinary Public Health, which is part of the
Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The Dutch Experiments on Animal Act is established under
European guidelines (EU directive no. 86/609/EEC regarding the Protection of Animals used for
Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes).
32 l Chapter 2
Results
Four out of ten members of the 6-cys family of P. berghei
are specifically transcribed in gametocytes
Ten members of the 6-cys family have been identified in Plasmodium and are found
in all Plasmodium species (Table S3). We analysed the transcription profile of the 10
members during blood stage development of P. berghei by Northern blot analysis and
combined this analysis with a search of publicly available literature, transcriptome and
proteome datasets. This method established that multiple members are transcribed
in gametocytes of which four members, p48/45, p47, p230, p230p, are transcribed
exclusively in the gametocyte stage (Fig. 1A). The gametocyte specific expression of p48
and p230p has been shown before [4,8]. Transcription of p38 occurs both in gametocytes
and in asexual blood stages as has also been reported [8], whereas p12 is transcribed in
all blood stages. The relative weak band observed in gametocytes might be due to low
contamination of the gametocyte preparation with asexual blood stages (gametocyte
samples always contain a small degree of contamination with schizonts when density
gradients are used for gametocyte purification). Transcription of p41 and p12p show a
complex pattern of multiple transcripts in all blood stages. The close paralogue pair p36
and p36p have quite different transcriptional profiles: p36p is not transcribed in blood
stages but transcription is exclusive to sporozoites [14,15] whereas p36 is transcribed
both in gametocytes (Fig. 1B; [8,52]) and in sporozoites [14,15].
Since no polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies exist for most of the 6-cys family members
of P. berghei, except for P48/45 [4] , P47 (this study) , P36 and P36p [14], data on
expression of these proteins in different life cycle stages mainly comes from large-scale
proteome analyses. For most members of the 6-cys family which have been detected
by proteome analysis, the presence of the protein coincides with transcription of its
gene (Fig. 1B). The exclusive presence of P48/45, P47, P230 and p230p in the proteomes
of gametocytes corresponds to the transcription pattern of their respective genes. The
presence of P48 and P47 in P. berghei gametocytes has been confirmed using polyclonal
antibodies against these proteins (Fig. S1; [4]). P12, P38 and P41 have been detected
in the proteome of merozoites which agrees with their transcription in the asexual
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 33
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WϬϬϬϱϮϴ͘ϬϬ͘Ϭ
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Dnj΀ϲ͕ϭϮ΁
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Figure 1. Expression of the 10 members of the 6-cys family of Plasmodium. A. Northern blot analysis of
transcription of the 10 P. berghei genes during blood stage development of a gametocyte non-producer
(NP) and a high producer (HP) line. The left panel shows the four genes that are exclusively expressed in
gametocytes. P36 and p36p are shown in the right panel since they are also expressed in the sporozoite
stage (see B). As (loading) controls Northern blots were hybridized to probes recognising LSU rRNA (87R
primer) and the gametocyte specific gene p28. Lanes: 1) NP asynchronous blood stages (ABS); 2) NP
schizonts (Schz); 3) HP asynchronous blood stages; 4) HP purified gametocytes (Gam). B. Transcription
and protein expression of the 10 genes determined by RNA and proteomic analyses (G = gametocyte; F =
female gametocyte; M = Male gametocyte; Bl = blood stage; Mz = merozoite; Sp = sporozoite). References:
1[4]; 2[52]; 3[17]; 4[18]; 5[71]; 6[72]; 7[73]; 8[74]; 9[12]; 10[75]; 11[10]; 12[13]; 13[8]; 14 [16]; 15[14];
16[41]; 17[76]; 18[15].
blood stages and with their identification in the raft-like membrane proteome of the
P. falciparum merozoite surface [13]. Also the presence of P36 in proteomes of both
gametocytes and sporozoites [41,52] and P36p in sporozoites [14,41] fits with the
transcription profile of these genes. Up to now only P12p has not been detected in any
proteome of Plasmodium. Comparison of the transcription and expression patterns of
the 10 conserved members of the 6-cys family of P. berghei with those of P. falciparum
34 l Chapter 2
from large scale transcriptome and proteome analyses demonstrates that the expression
patterns are conserved between the rodent and human parasite (Fig. 1B) and also
confirms that four out of the 10 members are specific to the gametocyte stage.
Three out of 4 members of the 6-cys family of P. berghei
that are specifically transcribed in gametocytes play a
role in fertilisation
We previously reported the functional analysis of mutant P. berghei parasites that were
deficient in expressing P48/45, generated by targeted disruption of p48/45 through a
double crossover homologous recombination event [4]. Here we have used the same
approach, schematically shown in Fig. 2A, to disrupt 5 other members of the 6-cys family
that are transcribed in gametocytes. We excluded p12, p12p, p41 and p36p from this
analysis since the results obtained from transcriptome and proteome analyses indicate
a role for the first three of these genes during the asexual blood stage development (Fig.
1B). We have previously demonstrated in both, P. berghei and P. falciparum, that P36p
is involved in liver-cell infection and disruption of its gene had no effect on development
of gametes and fertilisation [15,53]. Mutant parasite lines have been generated deficient
in P47 (∆p47), P230 (∆p230), P230p (∆p230p), P38 (∆p38) or P36 (∆p36) and for each
gene, mutants were selected from two independent transfection experiments (Table S1).
Two different ∆p230p mutant lines were generated, ∆p230p-I and ∆p230p-II, differing
in which regions of 230p have been disrupted. In mutant ∆p230-I a fragment is deleted
from the second 6-cys domain (i.e. first 894aa still present) onwards whereas in mutant
∆p230-II the deleted fragment includes part of the first 6-cys domain (i.e. first 492 amino
acids still present). In addition we generated a mutant line deficient in the expression
of both P48/45 and P47 (∆p48/45&∆p47). Correct disruption of the target-genes was
verified by diagnostic PCR analysis (Fig. 2B) and Southern blot analysis of separated
chromosomes and/or digested genomic DNA (data not shown). To demonstrate that the
mutant parasite lines were deficient in expression of the targeted gene we analysed
transcription of the corresponding genes by Northern blot analysis using mRNA
collected from purified gametocytes (Fig. 2B). No transcripts of p47 and p38 could be
detected in ∆P47 and ∆p38 mutants, and no p48/45 and p47 transcripts are present
in the DKO mutant ∆p48/45&∆p47. Only small, truncated transcripts were detected
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 35
ϱ͛ͲƚĂƌŐĞƚ ƚŐĚŚĨƌ ƐĞůĞĐƚĂďůĞ ϯ͛ͲƚĂƌŐĞƚ
ƌĞŐŝŽŶ ŵĂƌŬĞƌĐĂƐƐĞƚƚĞ ƌĞŐŝŽŶ
ZĞƉůĂĐĞŵĞŶƚǀĞĐƚŽƌ
dĂƌŐĞƚŐĞŶĞƐ
ƉϮϯϬ͕ƉϮϯϬƉ͕Ɖϰϳ͕Ɖϯϴ͕Ɖϯϲ
ƌĞƉůĂĐĞŵĞŶƚůŽĐƵƐ
/Edϭ
WZ
ŝŶƚ ŽƌĨ
ϯϭϯ
ѐƉϰϳ
ϲϵϮ
/EdϮ
ѐϰϳΘѐϰϴͬϰϱ
EŽƌƚŚĞƌŶ
ǁƚ
WZ
ŬŽϭ
Ϯ͘ϯ
ŬŽϭ
ŬŽϮ
ŝŶƚ
Ɖϰϳ
<K
ϭ
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ǁƚ
Ɖϰϳ
Ɖϰϴͬϰϱ <K
Ϯ ȴϰϳ ǁƚ
ŝŶƚ
Ɖϰϳ
Ɖϰϴͬϰϱ
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WZ
ŝŶƚ ŽƌĨ
ѐϮϯϬ
EŽƌƚŚĞƌŶ
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WZ
ŝŶƚ ŽƌĨ
ѐϮϯϬƉ
EŽƌƚŚĞƌŶ
ŬŽ
ǁƚ
ϴ͘ϱ
ŬŽϭ
ŬŽϭ
Ϯ
ƉϮϯϬ
ŬŽϮ
Ϯ͘ϱ
ǁƚ
ϵ͘ϱ
Ϯ͘ϲ
ǁƚ
ƉϮϯϬ
WZ
ŝŶƚ ŽƌĨ
ѐϯϲ
ѐϯϴ
EŽƌƚŚĞƌŶ
ǁƚ
WZ
ŝŶƚ ŽƌĨ ŬŽϭ
Ϯ͘ϰ
Ɖϯϲ
Ϯ͘Ϭ
ŬŽϭ
EŽƌƚŚĞƌŶ
ǁƚ ŬŽϭ
Ɖϯϴ
ƉϮϴ
ƉϮϴ
ǁƚ
ƉϮϯϬƉ
ƉϮϯϬƉ
ƉϮϴ
ŬŽϭ
ϭ
ǁƚ
Figure 2. Generation and analysis of mutants lacking expression of different members of the 6-cys family
of genes. A. Schematic representation of the replacement construct used for disruption of the target genes
by double cross-over homologous recombination. Correct integration of the construct results in disruption
of target gene as shown (replacement locus) and is analysed by PCR (see B) using the primers INT1, 313,
INT2 and 692 as shown in the figure and Table S1 and S2. Black boxes: the target regions of the 6-cys
genes; grey box: the tgdhfr/ts selectable marker cassette.B. PCR analysis of correct disruption of the 6-cys
genes and analysis of transcription of the genes in wild type and mutant (ko) parasite lines. PCRs were
performed with primers that specifically amplify either the 5’ (INT1 and 313) or 3’ (INT2 and 692) regions
of the disrupted locus (int). In addition PCR’s to amplify the intact open reading frame (orf) were performed
using genomic DNA of wild type parasites as a control (wt). The double knockout mutant ∆p48/45&∆p47
was checked for both p47 and p48/45. Control PCR amplifying the gametocyte specific p28 gene (C).
Northern blot analysis of transcription was performed using RNA extracted from gametocytes of wild type
(wt) or mutant parasites. Blots were hybridised with 6-cys specific gene probes that were obtained by
PCR amplification (see Table S2). As a control Northern blots were hybridized to a probe recognising the
gametocyte specific gene p28. The sizes of transcripts (kb) are shown next to the Northern blots.
36 l Chapter 2
for p230 and p230p in gametocytes of the ∆p230 and ∆p230p lines and also in ∆p36 a
truncated p36 transcript was found. Full length transcripts of wt p230 and p230p are
8.5 and 9.5 kb respectively, whereas truncated transcripts are approximately 2.5 kb in
size. Since several of the disrupted genes are organised as pairs within the genome (i.e.
p230&p230p and p48/45&p47), we analysed whether disruption of one member of a
pair affected transcription of the other gene. For ∆p48/45 parasites it has been shown
before that disruption of p48/45 had no effect on expression of its paralog P47 [4]. In
this study we similarly show for p47, p230 and p230p that disruption had no effect on
transcription of its paralogous member (Fig. S1 A&B). In addition to the transcription
analysis of the disrupted genes, we analysed the presence or absence of the proteins P47
and P48/45 in the mutant parasites by Western analysis using polyclonal antiserum (Fig.
S1C). P47 is present in wt gametocytes and gametocytes of the ∆p48/45 but is absent in
∆p47 and ∆p48/45&∆p47 gametocytes. P48/45 is present in wild type and absent in the
∆p48/45&∆p47 gametocytes.
We next analysed the phenotype of the different mutant lines during gametocyte and
gamete development as well as during fertilisation, ookinete and oocyst formation using
standard assays for phenotype analysis of the sexual- and mosquito stages of P. berghei.
Surprisingly, three of the six mutants lacking expression of genes that are transcribed
in gametocytes did not exhibit a phenotype that was different from wild type parasites
during these stages of development. These mutants, ∆p230p, ∆p38 or ∆p36, showed a
normal growth of the asexual blood stage (data not shown), sexual development and
development of the mosquito stages up to the mature oocysts (Table 1). All these mutant
lines produced wild type numbers of gametocytes and gametes and showed normal
fertilisation rates as measured by in vitro zygote/ookinete production (Table 1; Fig. 3).
In contrast to the absence of a discernable fertilisation phenotype with the ∆p230p,
∆p38 and ∆p36 mutants, we found that the capacity of fertilisation is severely affected
in the other three mutants, (Fig. 3A). Specifically, ∆p47, ∆p230 and ∆p48/45&∆p47
lines showed a fertilisation rate that was reduced by more than 99.9% compared to
wt, as shown by the inhibition of zygote/ookinete production in vitro (Table 1; Fig.
3A). These mutants produced normal numbers of mature gametocytes during blood
stage development. The analysis of in vitro gamete formation (exflagellation of males;
emergence of female gametes from the erythrocyte) by light-microscopy also revealed
that the process of gametocyte and gamete formation was not affected, resulting in
the production of motile male gametes and female gametes, emerged from the host
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 37
erythrocyte by more than 80% of the mature gametocytes (Table 1). At 16-18h after
activation of gamete formation, the in vitro cultures of ∆p47, ∆p230 and ∆p48/45&∆p47
lines contained many (clusters of) unfertilized, singly nucleated, female gametes. This
phenotype of a strong reduction of fertilisation despite the formation of male and female
gametes closely resembles the phenotype of Plasmodium parasites lacking P48/45 [4].
As had also been previously observed with the P48/45 deficient mutant, the fertilisation
rate of gametes of the three mutant lines seems to be more efficient in the mosquito
compared to in vitro fertilisation [4]. Compared to wild type parasites, the in vivo
fertilisation of the mutants is reduced by 93-98% as calculated by ookinete and oocyst
production in mosquitoes (Table 1), whereas the reduction of in vitro fertilisation rate is
greater than 99.9%. Infections of naïve mice through bite of 20-30 mosquitoes infected
with parasites of ∆p47, ∆p48/45&∆p47DKO and ∆p230 parasites, resulted in blood stage
infections containing only gene disruption mutants (i.e. mutant genotype and no ‘wild
Table 1. Gametocyte/gamete production, fertilisation rate and development in mosquitoes of
different mutants that lack expression of members of the 6-cys family of proteins.
Parasite
Gametocyte
Production 1
% (SD)
Gamete production (%)2 ♂ / ♀
Fertilisation
rate in vitro
(%) 3
No of
ookinetes
in vivo 4
No of
oocyst 5
Infected
mosquitoes (%)
WT
19.9 (3.1)
86-94 / 89-96
59 (6.7)
1313 (293-4280)
298 (18- 603) 100
∆p48/45&∆p47
20.7 (4.2)
82-94 / 84-94
<0.1
16 (0-78)
21 (0-124)
93
∆p48/45&∆p47
17.3 (2.1)
nd
<0.1
nd
nd
nd
∆p47 I
17.0 (2.0)
88-92 / 80-90
<0.1
50 (0-100)
16 (0-43)
95
∆p47 II
18.7 (2.5)
nd
<0.1
nd
17 (0-49)
70
∆p230 I
20.3 (3.2)
nd
<0.1
40 (0-100)
21 (0-76)
80
∆p230 II
18.3 (1.2)
84-96 / 82-86
<0.1
42 (0-100)
14 (0-59)
70
∆p230p I
21.7 (2.5)
86-90 / 78-88
70.0 (4.6)
1320 (660-2060)
208 (26-579)
95
∆p230p II
20.3 (1.5)
nd
63.0 (4.4)
nd
nd
nd
∆p36
22.0 (1.7)
nd
56.7 (6.0)
nd
235 (18-563)
95
∆p38
19.3 (2.3)
nd
69.7 (5.5)
nd
209 (20-556)
100
Percentage of blood stage parasites that develop into gametocytes in synchronous infections under standardized
conditions. 2 Percentage of gametocytes that emerge from the host cell and form gametes, determined by counting
exflagellations and free female gametes. 3 Fertilisation rate (FR) is the percentage of female gametes that develop
within 18 hours into ookinetes in vitro. 4 Mean number and range of ookinetes per mosquito at 22 hours after
mosquito feeding. 5 Mean number and range of mature oocysts per mosquito. nd, not determined.
1
38 l Chapter 2
type’ parasites), as determined by PCR and Southern analysis of genomic DNA (results
not shown). These results show that gametes of all three mutant lines still have a low
capacity to fertilise, resulting in the production of viable and infective ookinetes, oocysts
and sporozoites. Moreover, the results obtained with the double knock-out mutant
∆p48/45&∆p47 indicate that the few fertilisation events in single knock-out mutants
deficient in expression of either P47 or P48/P45 (this study and [4]) cannot be explained
by a compensation effect due to its paralogous protein because the ∆p48/45&∆p47
mutant still shows a comparable, albeit greatly reduced, ability to fertilise and to pass
through the mosquito.
P230 plays a role in male gamete fertility and P47 in
female gamete fertility
Fertility of the male and female gametes produced by the mutant lines can be determined
by in vitro cross-fertilisation studies, where gametes are cross-fertilised with gametes of
parasite lines that produce either only fertile male gametes or female gametes. Such an
approach was used to establish that ∆p48/45 parasites produced infertile male gametes,
whereas the female gametes are completely fertile [4]. We performed different in vitro
cross fertilisation experiments to determine whether the reduced fertilisation capacity
of the ∆p47 and ∆p230 mutants was due to affected male gametes, female gametes
or to both sexes. Gametes of both mutants were cross-fertilised with female gametes
of ∆p48/45 (males are infertile) to determine male fertility of ∆p47 and ∆p230. Male
gametes of ∆p47 were able to fertilise ∆p48/45 females (at wild-type levels) whereas
the males of ∆p230 were unable to fertilise the ∆p48/45 females (fertilisation rates
<0.01%; Fig. 3B). These results demonstrate that male gametes of ∆p47 are viable with
wild type fertilisation capacity and therefore the fertilisation defect of ∆p47 must be due
to infertile females. The normal fertility of male gametes of ∆p47 has also been shown in
previous studies in which the males of this mutant have already been used in other crossfertilisation studies [17,39,54,55]. The lack of fertilisation in the crossing experiments of
gametes of ∆p230 with ∆p48/45 shows that P230 plays a role in male fertility. In order
to test the fertility of ∆p230 females we crossed the gametes of this line with the fertile
male gametes of ∆p47 (as mentioned above the females are infertile). We find that ∆p47
male gametes are able to fertilise ∆p230 female gametes in a manner identical to their
ability to fertilise ∆p48/45 females (Fig. 3B). This demonstrates that female gametes
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 39
ϵϬ
&ĞƌƚŝůŝnjĂƚŝŽŶƌĂƚĞ^ĞůĨͲĨĞƌƚŝůŝnjĂƚŝŽŶ
&ĞƌƚŝůŝƐĂƚŝŽŶƌĂƚĞ
ϴϬ
ϳϬ
ϲϬ
ϱϬ
ϰϬ
ϯϬ
ϮϬ
ϭϬ
Ϭ
ϵϬ
Ϳ
Ϳ
Ϳ
ǁƚ ͬϰϱ ϳ;ϭͿ ϳ;ϮͿ Ϭ;ϭ Ϭ;Ϯ Ɖ;ϭͿ Ɖ;ϮͿ Ϳ;ϭ Ϳ;ϮͿ ϲ;ϭͿ ϴ;ϭͿ
ϱ
ϱ
ϴ ȴϰ ȴϰ Ϯϯ Ϯϯ ϯϬ ϯϬ
ȴϯ ȴϯ
ȴϰ
ȴ
ȴ ȴϮ ȴϮ ϰϴͬϰ ϰϴͬϰ
ϳΘ ϰϳΘ
ϰ
ȴ;
ȴ;
&ĞƌƚŝůŝnjĂƚŝŽŶƌĂƚĞƌŽƐƐͲĨĞƌƚŝůŝnjĂƚŝŽŶ
&ĞƌƚŝůŝƐĂƚŝŽŶƌĂƚĞ
ϴϬ
ϳϬ
ϲϬ
ϱϬ
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ϯϬ
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ϰϳ ϴͬϰϱ ȴϰϳ
ϰϱ
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ȴ
ȴ
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ϴͬ
ϴͬ
ϰ
y
ȴϰ
ϱy ;ϮͿy yȴϰ yȴϰ ;ϭͿy ;ϮͿy yȴ
ϱͿ
ϰ
Ϳ
ͬϰ
Ϭ
Ϭ
Ϳ
Ϳ
ϴͬ
ϰϱ
ϰ ϱ Θϰ ϴ
;ϭ
;Ϯ
Ϯϯ
Ϯϯ
ͬ
ȴϰ ϰϴͬ
Ϭ
Ϭ
ȴ
ȴ
ϴ
ϯ
ϯ
ϳ
ȴ
Θ ϰ ȴ ;ϰ
ȴϮ
ȴϮ
ϰϳ
ȴ;
Figure 3. Fertilisation rates and male
and female fertility of mutants lacking
expression of different members of the
6-cys family of proteins. The fertilisation
rate is defined as the percentage of female
gametes that develop into mature ookinetes
(ookinete conversion rates); 1 and 2 indicate
mutants obtained from independent
transfection experiments. A. Self-fertilisation
rates of the different mutants, showing wild
type fertilisation rates of mutants Δp230p,
Δp36 and Δp38. B. Cross-fertilisation rates
in assays in which gametes of the Δp47,
Δp230 and Δp48/45& Δp47 mutants (that
were affected in their fertilisation rate) were
crossed with fertile females of Δp48/45.
Δp47 males are fertile and fertilise Δp48/45
females at wild type rates whereas Δp230
males are infertile. Δp230 females are fertile
and are fertilised by Δp47 males at wild
type levels. Gametes of both sexes of the
Δp48/45& Δp47 mutant are infertile.
of ∆p230 have a fertility that is comparable to wild type female gametes and that the
fertilisation defect is the result of infertile males. Crossing experiments performed with
gametes of the double knockout mutant, ∆p48/45&∆p47 with gametes of either ∆p230,
∆p47 or ∆p48/45 did not result in increased fertilisation rates (<0.01%), demonstrating
that gametes of both sexes are infertile in the double knock-out mutant (Fig. 3B).
Infertile ∆p230 males form exflagellation centres but do
not attach to females and fertile males do not attach to
infertile ∆47 females
In P. falciparum it has been shown that male gametes lacking P230 expression have
a reduced capacity to adhere to red blood cells, as measured by the formation of
‘exflagellation centres’ [27]. We therefore examined the ability of P. berghei male
∆p230 gametes to attach to erythrocytes, by microscopic examination of exflagellation
centre formation under standardized in vitro conditions. In these experiments 76-92%
40 l Chapter 2
of exflagellating wt males and 72-90% exflagellating ∆p230 male gametocytes, formed
such centres (Table 2), indicating that in contrast to P. falciparum ∆p230 in P. berghei
both wt and ∆p230 male gametes have a similar ability to interact with red blood cells.
Gametocytes that did not form exflagellation centres were often floating on/above the
red blood cell layer during exflagellation. Further analysis of single, free male gametes of
∆p230 revealed that they were highly motile and often attach to red blood cells, producing
characteristic red blood cell shape deformations due to the active interactions between
the male gamete and the erythrocyte. Male gametes lacking expression of P48/45 do
not attach to female gametes as has been previously shown by analysing male-female
interactions by light microscopy [4,5]. We therefore analysed the interactions between
male and female gametes of ∆p230 or ∆p47, between 10 and 30 minutes after induction
of gamete formation using phase-contrast microscopy. In wt parasites attachment of
males to females was readily detected with a mean of over 25 attachments during a 20
minutes period of observation, with a mean of more than 6 confirmed fertilisations (i.e.
male gamete penetrations; Table 2). In preparations of gametes of both ∆p230 and ∆p47
not a single fertilisation event was detected and the number of male and female gamete
attachments was drastically reduced (Table 2). We observed that while male gametes of
both mutants undergo active interactions with red blood cells and platelets, attachment
of males to female gametes are hardly ever observed. These results show that P230 like
P48/45 is a male fertility factor involved in recognition or attachment to females and
that P47 is a female fertility factor involved in recognition or adherence by the male
gamete. Whether P48/45 and P230 once on the surface of the male gamete directly
interact with P47 on the surface of the female gamete is unknown. Unfortunately,
repeated immuno-precipitation experiments with anti-P. berghei P48/45 antibodies and
wt gamete preparations, in order to identify interacting partners, were unsuccessful
(data not shown).
Table 2. The interactions of Δp230 and Δp47 male gametes with red blood cells (exflagellation
centres) and female gametes (attachment and fertilisation).
Wild type
Δp230
Δp47
Exflagellation centers % of
male gametocytes (range)
84.7 (76-92)
80.3 (72-90)
nd
nd, not determined
# of males attached
to females (range)
25.5 (15-35)
2 (0-4)
5.5 (2-8)
# of fertilizations
(range)
6.8 (4-11)
0
0
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 41
Sequence polymorphism of Plasmodium proteins
involved in fertilisation
Analyses of sequence polymorphisms of p48/45, p47 and p230 of laboratory and field
isolates of P. falciparum has provided evidence that these proteins are under positive
selection [28,29,30,31]. We analysed synonymous (dN) and non-synonymous (dS)
polymorphisms of p48/45, p47 and p230 by comparing these genes in three closely
related rodent parasites P. berghei, P. yoelii and P. chabaudi by making use of the newly
available gene sequences (www.PlasmoDB.org version 6.1). The updated dN/dS values
for these genes obtained here, which is commonly used as an indicator of positive
selection, were in all comparisons higher than the mean dN/dS value of all genes
within the respective genomes (Table S4). However, only the dN/dS ratio of p47 in the
P. berghei/P. yoelii comparison showed a significant difference with the mean dN/dS
value (0.82 compared to the mean dN/dS of 0.26). Overall, P47 is in the top 4-6% of
fastest evolving proteins in the rodent parasite genomes as compared to top 10-16% for
P230 and 15-50% for P48/45 (Table S4). In addition, we have used the likelihood ratio
test (LRT) to analyse if these genes were undergoing neutral or positive selection (see
Materials and Methods). This test shows that p47 is indeed under positive selection
(P=0.006) when comparing the site/residue specific models of evolution.
We next examined sequence mutations in the same genes in more detail by performing
a comparative dN/dS ratio analysis across these genes using small and corresponding
regions of these genes using a ‘sliding window analysis’ (i.e. 300bp in 150bp intervals;
Fig. 4; Table S4). This analysis showed that p47 has an exceptionally elevated dN/dS
value (i.e. 1-2) in one area corresponding to the truncated B-type domain II as defined
by [7]. Interestingly, although P230 had a relatively low overall dN/dS value (0.33-0.44),
the sliding window analysis revealed that P230 contains several areas where the dN/
dS ratio is higher than 1.0 with an increased ratio in all 3 species in particular around
the B-type domain IV as defined by Gerloff et al. (2005). In order to analyse similarities
in the location of sequence polymorphism between P. falciparum and the three rodent
parasites, we aligned all known single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) described for
P230, P47 and P48/45 in P. falciparum (i.e. www.PlasmoDB.org; [56,57,58]) with the
dN/dS ratios determined by the ‘sliding window analysis’ (for details see Materials and
Methods; Fig. 4). Interestingly, the elevated dN/dS ratios of p47 domain II and domain
IV of P230, both correspond with the location of high SNP densities in the orthologous
42 l Chapter 2
P. falciparum genes. These findings would suggest that similar regions in the p47 and
p230 genes of rodent parasites and P. falciparum are subject to positive selection. To
predict which residues of the three P. berghei genes are under positive selection we
performed a Bayes Empirical Bayes analysis (BEB; [49]). This analysis calculates dN/dS
values (ω values) on each residue of a particular protein when the genes encoding these
WĨ^EWƐ
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Wď ǀƐ WĐ
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WLJ ǀƐ WĐ
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Figure 4. Polymorphisms and sequence divergence across p230, p48/45 and p47. Schematic representation
of p230, p47 and p48/45 (shown to scale). A- and B-type recurring domains (green and grey respectively;[7])
are shown and the numbering of domains (I-XIV) are shown as according to [7]. The putative Signal Peptide
(SP) is indicated in red. Above each gene the locations of all single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are
shown as identified in different P. falciparum strains in PlasmoDB (www.PlasmoDB.org; August 2009). Dark
blue diamonds: non-synonymous polymorphisms; Light blue diamonds: synonymous polymorphisms.
Below each gene the dN/dS ratios are shown across the length of the three rodent Plasmodium orthologs.
This dN/dS analysis is performed using a ‘sliding-window’ analysis, where 300bp of corresponding DNA
sequence was compared at 150bp intervals. The gene from each species has been compared to the same
gene of the other species; Red: P. berghei against P. chabaudi; Blue: P. berghei against P. yoelii; Green: P.
yoelii against P. chabaudi. The complete gene sequence is only available for P. berghei and P. chabaudi; The
5’ end of all three rodent parasite p230 genes is shorter than those of the P. falciparum p230 and therefore
alignment of the P. falciparum to the rodent p230s is only possible ~1kb after the start site.
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 43
proteins are compared in least 3 similar species and an ω>1 indicates positive selection
on a residue. For P47 ten residues were identified undergoing positive selection with
ω values ranging between 4 and 7 (Table S5). Nine of these 10 residues are confined
to the first two domains of P47 including the region B-type domain II. In P48/45 four
residues were identified (ω values ranging between 1 and 2) and for P230 only one
amino acid (ω=1.3). Interestingly, this one residue in P230 (i.e. residue 845V) maps to
the corresponding region of the P. falciparum P230, domain IV, where 6 of the 27 nonsynonymous polymorphisms described by Gerloff et al. map (Table S4).
Discussion
Until recently the only protein proven to play a direct role in merging of the male and
female gamete of Plasmodium gametes in Plasmodium was P48/45, a surface protein
principally of male gametes shown to play an essential role in recognition of and
attachment to females [4,5]. Recently, two studies have identified a second protein,
HAP2/GCS1 with a role early in fertilisation [5,6]. Male gametes of mutant parasites
lacking this protein can attach to female gametes but the subsequent fusion of the
gametes is absent [5], a process which is clearly after the mutual recognition and
attachment of gametes. Our studies provide evidence for the direct involvement of two
additional proteins, P47 and P230, which like P48/45 play a key role in the initial phase
of gamete-gamete recognition and attachment. The phenotype of mutants lacking P230
expression is identical to the phenotype of mutants lacking P48/45, i.e. male gametes
do not recognize and attach to female gametes whereas the female gametes are fertile.
These results show that the P230 protein, like P48/45, is a male fertility factor. A similar
role of P48/45 and P230 in male fertility is perhaps not surprising since evidence has
been reported that both proteins interact with each other. Unlike P48/45, P230 does
not contain a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor and in P. falciparum evidence
has been found that P230 forms a complex with P48/45 at the surface of gametocytes
and gametes [18,27,59,60]. Indeed, analysis of P. falciparum mutants has shown that
in the absence of P48/45 the P230 protein is not retained on the surface of gametes,
a result which may indicate that tethering of P230 to the surface of the male gamete
is mediated by P48/45 [27]. In contrast, in the absence of P230 the surface location
of P48/45 is not affected in P. falciparum [27,61]. If in P. berghei the same interaction
44 l Chapter 2
occurs, and ∆p48/45 gametes also lack surface expression of P230, then the failure of
∆p48/45 and ∆p230 males to attach to females might be solely due to the absence of
P230 on the male gamete surface. This would imply that P230 and not P48/45 is the
major male protein that is responsible for recognition of and attachment to the female.
However, it has been shown that antibodies directed against P48/45 strongly reduce
oocyst formation [19,20,24,25,26], indicating that either P48/45 antibodies disrupt the
attachment of the translocated P230 to P48/45 after gamete formation or it may play
a more direct role in fertilisation and that its function is not exclusively as a membrane
anchor for P230.
Interestingly, in P. falciparum it has been shown that male gametes with a disrupted p230
gene are incapable of interacting with erythrocytes and do not form the characteristic
exflagellation centres and these mutants show a strong reduction in oocyst formation
[27]. These observations, in P. falciparum, indicate that P230 not only plays a role in
gamete-gamete interactions but male gamete interactions with erythrocytes may be
required for gamete maturation resulting in an optimal fertilisation capacity [27,62].
Our analyses of ∆p230 P. berghei male gametes in live preparations did not reveal any
difference in their capacity to interact with red blood cells, suggesting that there are
functional differences between P230 of P. berghei and P. falciparum. As the interaction
between male and female gametes has not been analysed in the P. falciparum ∆p230
mutants it is unknown whether the decreased oocyst formation results from the
reduced gamete-erythrocyte interactions or is due to the lack of gamete recognition and
attachment, as we have observed in P. berghei. Therefore, further research is needed to
unravel whether P. falciparum P230 is also involved in gamete-gamete interactions like
P. berghei P230. Moreover, additional research is required to identify the proteins at the
surface of P. berghei male gametes that are responsible for the adherence of the male
gametes to erythrocytes. Disruption of the close paralogue of p230, p230p, did not have
any effect on fertilisation or on red blood cell attachment. The distinct phenotypes of
∆p230 and ∆p230p gametes demonstrate that the proteins encoded by these genes are
not functional paralogues that are able to complement each others function as has been
demonstrated for the paralogous protein pair P28 and P25 on the surface of zygotes
[63]. The same is true for the paralogous proteins P48/45 and P47 (see below) or P36
and P36p [15,64].
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 45
In addition to the important role of P230 in male fertility, our studies demonstrate that
P47 plays a key role in P. berghei female gamete fertility. Both proteome analyses of P.
berghei gametocytes [17] and IFA analysis of P. falciparum gametocytes using anti-P47
antibodies [12] have shown the female-specific expression of P47. In P. falciparum,
P47 is located on the surface of the female gametes following emergence from the
host erythrocyte. Our studies demonstrate that P. berghei females lacking P47 are
not recognized by wild type males. These observations may suggest that P48/45 or
P230 on the male gamete directly interact with P47 on the female for recognition and
attachment. However, P48/45 and P230 may alternatively interact with additional, as
yet unknown protein/s on the surface of the female that are dependent on the presence
of P47, in an analogous manner to the interaction between P230 and P48/45 on the
surface of the male gamete. Both P48/45 and P230 are also expressed in the female
gametes of P. berghei and P. falciparum [17,27]. The presence of these proteins on the
female gamete surface does not result from male proteins that are released by the male
during activation and subsequent binding to the female since ‘pre-activated’ female
gametocytes also express these proteins (B van Schaijk, personal communication and
[65]. However, an essential role for P48/45 and P230 in female gametocytes is not
implicated in P. berghei since both ∆p230 and ∆p48/45 females demonstrate normal
fertilisation, i.e. to wild-type levels, when incubated with wild type males.
Unexpectedly, the lack of expression of P47 in P. falciparum mutants appears not to
have a role in fertilisation as determined by oocyst formation in mosquitoes [12]. This
difference between P. berghei and P. falciparum suggests that the proposed model of the
interactions between male P48/45 and/or P230 with female P47 (and/or P47-interacting
proteins) being key for the recognition and attachment of gametes does not hold true for
all Plasmodium species. However, these differences between P. falciparum and P. berghei
might also be explained by the presence of an additional set of protein ligands in both
species that mediate additional mechanisms of gamete recognition and attachment.
Indeed by analysing P. berghei ∆p48/45 mutants [4] and mutants lacking expression of
P47 and P230 (this study) we found that low levels of fertilisation did occur. Surprisingly,
in all mutants significant higher fertilisation rates were observed in mosquito midguts
compared to in vitro rates of fertilisation. Even in the mutant lacking expression of both
P48/45 and P47, the same low fertilisation rates are observed. Assuming that P. berghei
∆p48/45 gametes lack P230 surface expression as has been shown for P. falciparum
∆p48/45, then gametes of the double knock-out mutant can fertilise in the absence of
46 l Chapter 2
essentially all three fertility factors of the 6-cys family, albeit at a reduced rate. These
observations indicate the presence of additional proteins that secure fertilisation in
the absence of the three members of the 6-cys family. For unidentified reasons this
alternative fertilisation pathway appears to be much more efficient in vivo than in vitro,
suggesting that mosquito factors influence this alternative route of fertilisation. The
observed oocyst formation in ∆p48/45 and ∆p47 P. falciparum parasites [4,12] might
therefore also be explained by this route of fertilisation and the presence of relatively
high numbers of oocysts might indicate that this alternative pathway is more efficient
in P. falciparum in A. stephensi compared to P. berghei in A. stephensi. Such alternative
pathways of fertilisation may have implications for development of transmission
blocking vaccines that block fertilisation using antibodies directed against members
of the 6-cys family of proteins and therefore it is important to identify the additional
proteins involved in the process of recognition and attachment of gametes. It is possible
that other members of the 6-cys family that are expressed in gametocytes (P230p, P38
and P36) may be involved in the alternative pathways of fertilisation. Although we found
that gametes lacking expression of these proteins did not show a significant reduction in
fertilisation, the effect of their absence on gamete fertility may only become evident in
the absence of P48/45, P47 and P230. Further research using mutants lacking multiple
6-cys members is required to reveal whether other 6-cys family members or other
unrelated proteins play a role in alternative routes of fertilisation.
For P48/45, P47 and P230 in P. falciparum evidence has been published that these
proteins are under differing rates of positive selection resulting in non-neutral
sequence polymorphisms [28,29,30,31]. Polymorphisms in gamete proteins may be a
consequence of sexual selection as is the case for gamete proteins of other organisms
[3,66]. However, sequence polymorphism in these Plasmodium genes may also result
from natural selection exerted by the adaptive immune system of the host. These three
proteins are expressed in mature gametocytes, and as only a very small percentage of
gametocytes ever get passed on to a mosquito, the vast majority of gametocyte proteins
(including these 6-cys members) are eventually released into the hosts circulation where
they are exposed to the host immune system. Indeed it has been shown that P48/45 and
P230 both elicit humoral responses in infected individuals that can mediate transmission
blocking immunity [22,24,67,68,69,70]. Our analyses on dN/dS values of the three
rodent parasites provide additional evidence that directional selection pressures affect
sequence polymorphisms of gamete surface proteins, especially evident for the female
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 47
specific p47 which belongs to the top 4-6% fastest evolving genes in the rodent parasite
genomes. Analysis of dN/dS variation across the genes by the sliding window approach
on P230 identifies one region that is evolving rapidly in all the rodent parasites and,
interestingly, this correlates with the same region in P. falciparum (B-type domain IV) that
has the highest density of SNPs [7]. The correlation of the location of P. falciparum SNP’s
with increased dN/dS ratios in both P230 and P47 may indicate that similar selection
pressures exists in different Plasmodium species. Whether this positive selection on
these gamete proteins is driven by immune responses and/or mating interactions is
presently unknown. However, insight into sequence polymorphisms in gamete surface
proteins that are targets for TB vaccines and the influence of these polymorphisms on
mating behaviour of parasites in natural populations of P. falciparum should help to
improve TB vaccines development.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Dr Arnab Pain (Sanger Institute, Welcome Trust Genome Campus,
UK) for providing us with complete gene sequences of some of the members of the
6-cys family and Jolanda Klaassen, Astrid Pouwelsen, Laura Pelser-Posthumus (RUNMC,
Nijmegen) for their help with the dissections of mosquitoes. We would also like to thank
Dr. Sarah Reece (Institutes of Evolution, Immunology and Infection Research, School of
Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh, UK) for critically reading the manuscript.
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expression profiling of the malaria parasite life cycle. Science 301: 1503-1508.
Van Dijk MR (2009) This paper.
Khan SM (2010) unpublished results.
pL0124
p38
261cl1
276cl1
360cl1
846cl1
0.58
1
cccaagcttggatccgcatttttgttgactctaccg
cccaagcttgactttttaatataactccaggc
ccatcgatatatttgtaaaatgagtgtgtgg
cccaagcttaccacgaacataatcttgtattc
0.66
0.42
0.6
cccaagcttcatattttcctaaaagagctcc
cccaagcttcacttttatatactatagcacc
B, BamHI; C, ClaI.; EI, EcoRI; EV, EcoRV; H, HindIII, K, KpnI; S, SacII
pL0123
cccaagcttccgcgggtatatggtaaagaacctactaacac
cccaagcttgatgtgttttatttggatgtgc
L1345 H,S
L1346 H
L862 H,B
L863 H
L1355 C
L1356 H
314cl1
p230p II pL0120
p36
cggggtaccgaaacaatcgaatttctatgc
cccaagcttttggcgtcccatctatgc
L1.5 K
L1.6 H
pL1139
p230
0.5
0.5
Size
(kb)
cccaagcttggatccgattataatattccttcaataagg
cccaagcttgtaccttttccatatgctcatagtcg
cccaagcttggatccgattataatattccttcaataagg
cccaagcttgtaccttttccatatgctcatagtcg
204cl1
216
pL0121
p4748/45
270cl1
526cl1
192cl1
203
310cl1
323cl1
p230p I pL0122
pL1138
p47
5'-targeting primers
Primers
restriction
sites
L697 H,B
L701 H
L697 H,B
L701 H
L925 H
L1360 H
Mutant
parasites
Construct
Gene
L1347 EI
L1348 S
L864 EV
L865 K
L1431 EI
L1248 B
L1.3 EV
L1.4 B
Primers
restriction
sites
L867 EV
L700 K
L408 EV
pBS-SK
L1357 EV
L1358 B
cggaattcggtgctgtaaactatagag
cgcggatccatgcgaagaaacgaaacactg
ggatatccgatttagcatctcatcatgg
cggggtacctggtactgcgaaaatcacacc
ccggaattctcttgagcccgttaatg
tccccgcgggtatggaactacatctatatag
agttcaaaaacaaattacacg
cgcggatcctactgtaataccttttttccc
ggatatcggaaaatattttaatgaatctcc
cgcggatccgtatttctgaatgtggaattagc
ggatatcagcaatacctcaatcagcatc
ggatatctagcaatgttggtggcattgc
cggggtaccaattttatcattagcgttatgtgg
3'-targeting primers
Table S1: Information on the replacement constructs used to disrupt the different members of the 6-cys gene family
0.8
0.9
0.9
0.5
1
1.5
1.3
C/B
B/K
S
K/B
C/B
B/K
B/K
Construct Insert
size (kb) release
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 51
52 l Chapter 2
Table S2. Information on primers used in PCR and Southern analysis in order to genotype the mutants with
disrupted 6-cys gene
Disrupted
locus
INT1+2
Sequence
Size
(kb)
p47
L759
L313
atacagtaacgcaacgtcg
acgcattatatgagttcattttac
1
p47-48/45
L759
L313
agtacagtaacgcaacgtcg
acgcattatatgagttcattttac
1
p230
L1405
L313
gatgtagaaccaagtgtagg
acgcattatatgagttcattttac
1.5
p230p I
L831
L313
ctttatttttcaattaccgcc
acgcattatatgagttcattttac
1.3
L832
L692
L1000
L313
ttgtattcttcatcctcatatg
cttatatatttataccaattg
1.5
tgcttatgcgtaaacaactcc
acgcattatatgagttcattttac
1
L1210
L313
taaagtgttacatacaatagttgc
acgcattatatgagttcattttac
1.6
p230p II
p36
p38
WT1+2
Sequence
Size (kb)
L964
L965
L964
L965
L1384
L1385
L1692
L1375
L932
L1359
actatgagcatatggaaaagg
cgcctaggctaggaagatgatatttttaattcc
1
actatgagcatatggaaaagg
cgcctaggctaggaagatgatatttttaattcc
gctctagatgaaagaagatcagtaatatgtag
cgcggatccaccaattttaatattcataaaaccag
1 (p47)
cccaagcttgaaacaatcgaatttctatgc
cccaagcttactgtaataccttttttccc
1.6
L831
L1348
L1380
L1373
L1355
L1248
cccaagcttgaaacaatcgaatttctatgc
tccccgcgggtatggaactacatctatatagg
1.6
cgcggatccgagtttaaaagaaatagaagttgg
cgcggatccttaatcttcttttgtggaaaaaatgtg
0.9
ccatcgatatatttgtaaaatgagtgtgtgg
cgcggatccatgcgaagaaacgaaacactg
0.85
cgcggatccacaggagataatacaaacaatgac
cgcggatccttattcaacaataccgattttcccattatc
1.2
(p48/45)
1.6
Table S3. Gene models of the different 6-cys gene family members in 6 Plasmodium species.
GENE
P. falciparum
P. berghei
P. yoelii
P. chabaudi
P. vivax
P. knowlesi
p48/45
PF13_0247
PB001525.02.0
PY04207
PCAS_136420
PVX_083235
PKH_120750
p47
PF13_0248
PB001526.02.0
PY04395
PCAS_136430
PVX_083240
PKH_120710
p36
PFD0210c
PB000892.00.0
PY01341
PCAS_100200
PVX_001025
PKH_031030
p52
PFD0215c
PB000891.00.0
PY01340
PCAS_100210
PVX_001020
PKH_031020
p12
PFF0615c
PB000528.00.0
PY03100
PCAS_011160
PVX_113775
PKH_113620
p12p
PFF0620c
PB000527.00.0
PY03099
PCAS_011170
PVX_113780
PKH_113610
p230p
PFB0400w
PB000214.00.0
PY03857
PCAS_030820
PVX_003900
PKH_041110
p230
PFB0405w
PB000403.00.0
PY03856
PCAS_030830
PVX_003905
PKH_041100
p38
PFE0395c
PB000400.01.0
PY02738
PCAS_110730
PVX_097960
PKH_102490
p41
PFD0240c
PB000963.01.0
PY01066
PCAS_100250
PVX_000995
PKH_030970
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 53
Table S4. Whole gene dN/dS, dN and dS values of p48/45, p47 and p230 compared to the values of
all annotated genes present in the 3 rodent parasite genomes
P. berghei vs P. yoelii
dN/dS
dN
0.36
0.03
(>79%)
0.82
0.09
(>96%)
0.08
p230
0.44 (>87%) 0.05
0.11
All genes
All genes*
0.27
0.26
p48/45
p47
dS
0.11
P. berghei vs P. chabaudi
dN/dS
dN
dS
0.36
0.05
0.14
(>50%)
0.46
0.09
0.19
(>94%)
0.33
0.09
0.26
(>84%)
0.22
0.22
P. yoelii vs P. chabaudi
dN/dS
dN
dS
0.36
0.05
0.14
(>85%)
0.50
0.09
0.18
(>94%)
0.42
0.11
0.26
(>90%)
0.23
0.23
* with telomeric multi-gene families excluded (e.g. birs, yirs, cirs etc). Numbers in parentheses represent the percentage of genes within the Plasmodium genome that are evolving slower than the analyzed gene.
54 l Chapter 2
Table S5.Sliding window analysis of p48/45, p47 and p230 in P.
berghei vs P. yoelii vs P. chabaudi.
PB000403.00.0 versus PY03856 versus PCAS_030830 (P230)
0
150
300
450
600
750
900
1050
1200
1350
1500
1650
1800
1950
2100
2250
2400
2550
2700
2850
3000
3150
3300
3450
3600
3750
3900
4050
4200
4350
4500
4650
4800
4950
5100
5250
5400
5550
5700
5850
6000
6150
6300
6450
6600
6750
6900
7050
7200
7350
7500
7650
7800
7950
300
450
600
750
900
1050
1200
1350
1500
1650
1800
1950
2100
2250
2400
2550
2700
2850
3000
3150
3300
3450
3600
3750
3900
4050
4200
4350
4500
4650
4800
4950
5100
5250
5400
5550
5700
5850
6000
6150
6300
6450
6600
6750
6900
7050
7200
7350
7500
7650
7800
7950
8100
8250
150
300
450
600
750
900
1050
1200
1350
1500
1650
1800
1950
2100
2250
2400
2550
2700
2850
3000
3150
3300
3450
3600
3750
3900
4050
4200
4350
4500
4650
4800
4950
5100
5250
5400
5550
5700
5850
6000
6150
6300
6450
6600
6750
6900
7050
7200
7350
7500
7650
7800
7950
8010
2.8624
0.408
0.3521
0.4251
0.4712
0.6539
0.3412
0.3233
0.4687
0.7711
1.3756
0.5234
0.3188
0.3625
0.295
0.3598
1.1171
0.9744
0.5235
0.3217
0.1375
0.4215
0.383
0.2868
0.4076
0.853
0.983
0.3965
0.2084
0.1573
0.159
0.1178
0.0516
0.561
0.4908
0.5292
1.0976
0.6501
0.2689
0.3097
0.3854
0.2996
0.205
0.2754
0.2879
0.3932
0.5346
0.2199
0.1582
0.6329
0.9292
0.5876
0.3347
0.2323
0.2798
0.2768
0.379
0.3133
0.3018
0.387
0.3431
0.1756
0.1561
0.2209
0.3474
0.3491
0.3368
0.4727
0.3825
0.2638
0.169
0.2002
0.2839
0.5564
1.0418
0.2757
0.2577
0.4509
0.5114
0.2897
0.2693
0.2472
0.1835
0.1819
0.2521
0.2725
0.1065
0.6518
0.3927
0.5516
0.973
0.5935
0.396
0.5769
0.4481
0.3595
0.3569
0.3525
0.3933
0.3782
0.3921
0.2853
0.3007
0.8077
1.1134
0.8108
0.5652
0.2368
0.2112
0.2026
0.2454
0.2388
0.3227
0.528
0.4067
0.2037
0.1487
0.2577
0.4543
0.6539
6-cys proteins of Plasmodium and gamete fertility l 55
PB001526.02.0 versus PY04395 versus PCAS_136430 (P47)
0
150
300
450
600
750
900
300
450
600
750
900
1050
1200
150
300
450
600
750
900
1050
0.403
0.3993
1.185
2.1968
2.1969
1.844
0
150
300
450
600
750
900
1050
300
450
600
750
900
1050
1200
1350
150
300
450
600
750
900
1050
1200
0.4005
0.4015
0.3361
0.2007
0.3559
0.3878
0.3075
0.2723
0.3466
0.3002
1.0989
1.0067
0.4173
0.3747
0.225
0.4373
0.3035
0.896
0.9921
0.3191
0.185
0.2499
0.5824
0.7737
0.224
0.2507
0.3634
0.3222
0.2683
0.244
0.4231
0.7185
0.2664
0.2553
0.3094
0.4356
0.4075
PB001525.02.0 versus PY04207 versus PCAS_136420 (P48/45)
Table S6 Residues of P48/45, P47 and P230 under positive selection
according Bayes Empirical Bayes (BEB) analysis
Protein ID
residue
P‐value
(omega>1)
omega
p230
PB000403.00.0
859V
0.518
1.28
6G
24F
29V
76N
79E
152R
160E
162I
183Q
233S
0.872
0.811
0.979
0.792
0.603
0.809
0.813
0.857
0.632
0.526
6.95
6.46
7.58
6.26
4.96
6.44
6.45
6.75
5.10
4.33
118T
204F
211D
339S
0.5
0.501
0.544
0.53
1.47
1.47
1.56
1.52
p47
PB001526.02.0
p48/45
PB001525.02.0
Each P. berghei protein is compared to its ortholog in P. yoelii and P. chabaudi
56 l Chapter 2
Figure S1 (left). Gene expression of p230, p47 and
p48/45 in mutants in which the paralogous gene has
been disrupted. A. Northern analysis of transcription
of p230 and p230p in mutant Δp230. showing wild type
transcription of the paralog p230p B. Northern analysis
of transcription of p47 and p48/45 in the mutant Δp47,
showing wild type transcription of the paralog p48/45. C.
Western blot analysis of expression of P47 and P48/45 in
mutants Δp48/45 and Δp48/45& Δp47.
Figure S2 (below). Gene alignments of P. falciparum
and P. berghei p230, p48/45 and p47. The one residue
(861V) in P. berghei p230 that appears to be under strong
positive selection by the BEB analysis is highlighted
(blue) and aligned with the two non-synonymous
polymorphic residues in P. falciparum (i.e. 1194Y and
1196Q; in red and highlighted in yellow; defined by
[7]) adjacent to a cysteine residue defined in domain
IV (B-type) of P230 (highlighted in yellow). Full figure
is available at: http://www.plospathogens.org/article/
fetchSingleRepresentation.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/
journal.ppat.1000853.s008
PB000403.00.0 753 SFQVPAYIYNTNPYYFVFGCNNTRDNGKIGIVELIISKNEEMIKGCNFNS 802
:||||.||....|:||:|||||.:..|.||||||:|||.||.||||||:.
PFB0405w 1095 TFQVPPYIDIKEPFYFMFGCNNNKGEGNIGIVELLISKQEEKIKGCNFHE1144
PB000403.00.0 803 DAIEHFSNNMRPDETECKIDAYPNDIIGFICPKKQNFVSSKHVLDIDADT 852
..:::|:.|:..|..||.:.||.||||||.|
:.:.|..:::.:.
PFB0405w 1145 SKLDYFNENISSDTHECTLHAYENDIIGFNC------LETTHPNEVEVEV 1188
PB000403.00.0
853 DADLENVDVNPNDCFDSINIDSTKKYIVNELPGAQTYRNKSRNMPRYFKV 902
: |.| :.:.|.:||:::........|...|..||||...::..|.:.|:
PFB0405w 1189
E-DAE-IYLQPENCFNNVYKGLNSVDITTILKNAQTYNINNKKTPTFLKI 1236
PB000403.00.0 903
PYHNNELDVIFQCSCVMGSKTNKIIVTVKALNGQIPKKYEKSEIKSSPSI 952
|.:|...||...|.|.:.....||.|.:...:..:.|:..:||
|.
PFB0405w 1237 PPYNLLEDVEISCQCTIKQVVKKIKVIITKNDTVLLKREVQSE-----ST 1281
Chapter 3
Pfs47, paralog of the male fertility factor
Pfs48/45, is a female specific surface
protein in Plasmodium falciparum
Ben C.L. van Schaijka, Melissa R. van Dijkb, Marga van de Vegte-Bolmera, Geert-Jan
van Gemerta, Maaike W. van Doorenb, Saliha Eksic, Will F.G. Roeffena, Chris J.
Janseb, Andrew P. Watersb and Robert W. Sauerweina.
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands.
b
Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.
c
Department of Biology, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, USA..
a
Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2006 Oct;149(2):216-22. Epub 2006 Jun 19.
60 l Chapter 3
Abstract
The genome of Plasmodium falciparum contains a small gene family that expresses
proteins characterized by the presence of 6-cysteine domains. Most of these proteins
are expressed on the surface of the parasite and some are known to play a role in cell-cell
interactions. Two members of this family, Pfs48/45 and Pfs230, form a complex localized
on the surface of gametes and are recognized as important targets for transmissionblocking vaccines. In this study we report the analysis of an additional member of this
family, Pfs47 the closest paralog of Pfs48/45. We demonstrate that Pfs47 is expressed
only in female gametocytes and is located on the surface of female gametes following
emergence from red blood cells. In contrast to the critical function of P48/45 for male
fertility, Pfs47 does not appear crucial for female fertility. Parasites lacking Pfs47 through
targeted gene disruption, produce normal numbers of oocysts when included in the blood
meal of the mosquito vector. In addition, three monoclonal antibodies against Pfs47
were unable to inhibit oocyst development when present in a blood meal containing
wild type parasites. These results show redundancy in protein function for Pfs47 and
reduce the support for candidacy of Pfs47 as a transmission-blocking vaccine target.
Pfs47 is a female specific surface protein l 61
Introduction
The genome of Plasmodium falciparum contains a small, conserved family of 10
genes encoding proteins that are characterized by the presence of two or more copies
of 6-cysteine (6-cys) domains [1,2,3,4,5]. All members are conserved in different
Plasmodium species and eight members form closest-paralog pairs that are organized as
a tandem repeat (head to tail) within the genome (P48/45 and P47, P230 and P230p, P36
and P36p, P12 and P12p) with an overall sequence identity in the order of 24% [5,6,7]. All
6-cys proteins contain a signal peptide and most a putative glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol
(GPI) anchor sequence and thus are likely to be located on the surface of the parasite or
its invasion-associated organelles [2,8,9]. Most proteins are restricted to a single life cycle
stage and are expressed by parasite forms that engage in cell-cell interactions at different
phases of the life cycle, such as sporozoites, merozoites and gametocytes/gametes
[8,10,11,12]. For example, P48/45 and P230 are known gamete surface molecules and
certain monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against P48/45 and P230 reduce transmission due
to the inhibition of zygote development [13,14,15,16] or lysis of gametes in the presence
of active complement respectively [17,18,19]. Therefore, 6-cys proteins may function
as receptors or ligands and both P48/45 and P230 are being pursued as transmissionblocking vaccine candidates [20].
Analysis of mutant lines lacking P48/45 in both rodent and human-infectious species of
Plasmodium, showed an essential, conserved role for this protein in male fertility, i.e.
attachment and penetration of female gametes by the male gamete is strongly impaired
in these mutant parasites [6]. However, fertilization was not completely inhibited in
P48/45 deficient parasites. In addition, mutant parasites lacking P230 were also able to
fertilize and form oocysts, although at a reduced level [21,22]. These findings suggested
a redundancy of proteins involved in gamete interactions. It might be possible that
paralogous proteins are responsible for compensation of loss of function of one of the
proteins as has been shown for the paralog-pair P25 and P28 of the zygote/ookinete
surface [23].
Pfs47 is the closely linked paralog of Pfs48/45 and in this study we studied both the
localization and function of this protein in order to investigate its potential as a
transmission-blocking vaccine target. Transcriptome and proteome data [10,11,12]
indicate that Pfs47 is specifically expressed in gametocytes. We found that Pfs47 is
62 l Chapter 3
expressed only in female gametocytes and is located on the surface of female gametes
(macrogametes) following emergence from the red blood cell. Disruption of the gene
encoding Pfs47 did not lead to a significant reduction of oocyst development in the
mosquito, showing redundancy of function for yet another protein expressed during
sexual development. Additionally, a panel of Pfs47-specific monoclonal antibodies
included in membrane feeding assays did not affect oocyst development in the mosquito.
Together these results question the potential of Pfs47 as a transmission-blocking vaccine
candidate.
Materials and Methods
Parasites
P. falciparum parasites line NF54 (wildtype (WT)), clone 3D7 (derived from NF54) and pfs47parasites were cultured using a semi automated culture system as described [24,25]. Gametocyte
development, sex ratio and in vitro gamete formation were determined as described [26] and
sporozoites were collected as described[27].
Generation of pfs47- parasites
The pfs47 gene (PF13_0248) of P. falciparum was disrupted with the insertion plasmid pI47, a
derivative of the previously described pDT. Tg23 plasmid [28]. pI47 was constructed by cloning
an 865 bp internal fragment of the pfs47 coding sequence, obtained by PCR amplification using
primers 675 (5’-ggagatcTGAATCTCATTTATATTCTGC) and 676 (5’-ggactagtTAACATATACATGCCTTCC),
into the BglII and SpeI restriction sites of the pDT.Tg23 vector. Transfection of NF54 bloodstage
parasites was performed as described [29], using a BTX electroporation system. Selection of pfs47parasites was performed as described [28].
Genotype analysis of transfected parasites was performed by PCR and Southern blot analysis.
Genomic DNA of WT or transfected parasites was isolated [30] and analyzed by PCR using primer
pair BVS01 (5’-CAACCCTACGTTGGGTGACC) and L430 (5’-GGATAACAATTTCACACAGGA) for correct
integration of pI47 in the pfs47 locus and for the presence of WT using primer pair BVS01 and
BVS02 (5’-GCGATATGTAATTCCATTACTGC), both annealing outside the target region used for
integration. PCR reactions were performed as described [31]. For Southern blot analysis, genomic
DNA was digested with NsiI, size fractionated on a 0.6% agarose gel and transferred to a Hybond-N
membrane (Amersham) by gravitational flow [30]. The blot was prehybridized in Church buffer
[32] followed by hybridization to a pfs47 5’UTR specific radioactive probe. The pfs47 5’UTR PCR
Pfs47 is a female specific surface protein l 63
product, obtained with primer pair 1263 (5’-CATGCCATGGGATTTATCATTTGTCCTTGTAAAAG) and
1263R (5’-ATCACATACGTATTGTGTTGAGC) was labeled using the High Prime DNA labeling kit
(Roche) and purified with Micro Biospin columns (Biorad).
Production, characterization and purification of Pfs47 specific mAbs
Production of rat mAbs was performed as described [33,34]. Briefly, Lou/M rats were immunized
with deoxychelate extracts of activated NF54 gametocytes [26]. Following isolation of the spleen,
the B-cells were fused to Y3-Ag1.2.3. rat myoloma cells to produce hybridomas. Hybridoma cell
lines producing gametocyte specific antibodies were selected using a gametocyte ELISA [35] and
Western blot analysis. Three cell lines were cloned generating the mAbs Pfs47.1, Pfs47.2 and
Pfs47.3, which were purified from culture supernatant with goat anti-rat Sepharose 4B matrix
(Zymed) using the Akta Prime FPLC (Amersham Biosciences). The isotypes of the mAbs were
determined with the Rat Monoclonal Isotyping Test kit (Serotec).
Northern blot analysis
P. falciparum 3D7 parasites were cultured starting with a 0.1% asexual parasitaemia. On day 9 after
the start of the culture, the asexual parasites were removed with 50mM N-acetyl-D-glucosamine
treatment and stage II-V gametocytes were harvested. Gametes were obtained by stimulating
stage V gametocytes for 1 hour [26]. RNA was isolated from 0.01% saponin treated parasites using
Trizol (Invitrogen) followed by chloroform extraction. The samples were size fractionated on a 0.8%
formaldehyde agarose gel, transferred to Nytran (Schleicher & Schuell, Keene, NH), crosslinked
with ultraviolet light and subsequently hybridized with different probes.
Western blot analysis
Deoxychelate extracts of NF54 or Pfs47- gametocytes isolated by MACS [36] were size fractionated
on a 12% Novex Bis/Tris gel (Invitrogen) and transferred to nitrocellulose blot according to
manufacturers protocol (Novex, Invitrogen). Blot was blocked with 5% milk followed by incubation
with gametocyte specific mAbs and subsequently with HRP labeled antibodies (DAKO). Antibody
staining was visualized using the Vector SG peroxidase substrate kit.
Immuno-fluorescence assay of fixed gametocytes or live gametes in
suspension
NF54 or Pfs47- gametocytes were either air-dried on glass slides coated with poly-L-Lysine or
activated in suspension to gametes as described above. The slides or gametes were incubated
in PBS containing primary mAbs for 1 hour at room temperature and subsequently washed with
PBS and incubated with anti-rat-ALEXA488 and/or anti-mouse-ALEXA586 secondary antibodies
(Molecular probes). Staining was visualized and photographed on a Leica fluorescence microscope
with digital camera.
64 l Chapter 3
Membrane feeding assay
Membrane feeding assays were performed as described [26]. Briefly, 14-day-old cultures from
NF54 or pfs47- gametocytes were fed to female Anopheles stephensi in presence or absence
of Pfs47 specific mAbs diluted in human serum containing active complement. On day 7 the
mosquitoes were dissected and examined for midgut oocysts as described [26,37]. The statistical
analysis of oocyst production was performed with the non-parametric Wilcoxin rank-sum test.
Results
Expression of Pfs47
Transcription of pfs47 was analyzed by Northern blot analysis using RNA from 3D7
asexual blood stage parasites and synchronized, developmental stages of gametocytes
and gametes. A specific transcript of 2.3 kb was detected only in the gametocyte and
gamete stages of the parasite (Fig 1A). Transcription of pfs47 started at a low level
in stage II to III gametocytes and was increased from stage IV gametocytes onwards.
Interestingly, transcription of pfs47 mimicked pfs230 transcription but was dissimilar to
transcription of its paralog pfs48/45, which showed a significant increase in transcription
in earlier gametocyte stages (II and III)(Fig 1A).
To study the expression and localization of Pfs47 we selected three mAbs (Pfs47.13) that recognized a band of approximately 47 kDa on a Western blot containing WT
gametocyte proteins. This band was absent in lanes containing proteins from Pfs47
deficient gametocytes, demonstrating the specificity of these antibodies for Pfs47 (Fig
1B). The reactivity of Pfs47.3 on Western blot was significantly weaker compared to
Pfs47.1 and Pfs47.2.
Interestingly, immuno-fluorescence assay (IFA) using mature WT gametocytes showed
that only a fraction of the gametocytes (approximately 50%) reacted with the Pfs47
mAbs. These Pfs47 positive gametocytes displayed the morphology of mature female
gametocytes (condensed pigment), while the morphology of Pfs47 negative gametocytes
resembled that of male gametocytes (dispersed pigment). In order to confirm the
female-specific expression of Pfs47, we performed IFAs using male specific α-tubulin-II
Pfs47 is a female specific surface protein l 65
antibodies [38] and Pfs47 antibodies. These IFAs showed that all α-tubulin-II positive
(red) gametocytes were negative for Pfs47 (green), whereas Pfs47 positive gametocytes
were negative for α-tubulin-II (Fig 1 C,D,E). Pfs47 therefore, is expressed only in female
asexual
(A)
II
Gametocytes
III IV V
gametes
gametocytes.
Pfs47
2.3kb
Pfs48/45
2.3kb
Pfs230
10.7kb
MSP1
5kb
(F)
(C)
(G)
(D)
-
Pfs47
WT
-
Pfs47
WT
-
Pfs47
WT
-
Pfs47
WT
Pfs47
(B)
WT
-
EtBr
(E)
Pfs48/45
Pfs47
39kDa >
mAb:
47.1
47.2
47.3
Negative
control
Pfs48/45
Figure 1. Expression of Pfs47. A. Transcription of pfs47 during blood stage development of gametocytes.
Northern blot analysis of RNA isolated from 3D7 parasite cultures containing asexual blood stages,
gametocyte stages II-V and gametes. Blot was subsequently hybridized with a pfs47, pfs48/45, and pfs230
specific probe. The asexual specific msp-1 (Freeman and Holder, 1983) probe is used as a control. The
ethidium bromide (EtBr) stained agarose gel is shown as a loading control. pfs47 is specifically transcribed
in the sexual stages of P. faciparum like pfs48/45 and pfs230. B. Western blot of WT and Pfs47 deficient
(Pfs47-) gametocytes. Blots were probed with the Pfs47 specific mAbs Pfs47.1, Pfs47.2, Pfs47.3 and as a
positive control P48/45 mAb (85RF 45.1). Blots were also incubated with the secondary Ab as a negative
control. (Panel C, D and E) show fixed gametocytes stained with a mix of Pfs47 mAbs (green) and α-tubulinII Abs (red) and visualized with secondary fluorescent labeled antibody. Microscope filters: FITC (C), TRITC
(D), Bright field (E). Pfs47 is expressed only in female gametocytes.(Panel F and G) Suspension immunofluorescence assay of WT gametes with Pfs47.1. A live gamete in suspension stained with primary Pfs47.1
and visualized by secondary anti-rat Alexa488 (green) is shown in F. The bright field image is shown in G.
Pfs47 is expressed on the surface of gametes.
66 l Chapter 3
To determine surface expression of Pfs47 we performed cell surface specific IFAs (SIFA) on
live gametes in suspension. WT gametocytes were activated and incubated with the three
Pfs47 mAbs. All antibodies reacted with the surface of extracellular WT macrogametes
(shown for Pfs47.1 in fig 1 F,G) while no staining was observed in control SIFAs in which
gametes were incubated with only the secondary antibody (not shown). The combined
data show that Pfs47 is expressed specifically on the surface of macrogametes.
Mutant parasites lacking Pfs47 produce normal numbers
of oocysts
To analyze the putative function of Pfs47 in female gamete fertility we generated
mutant parasite lines in which pfs47 was disrupted (pfs47-) through standard genetic
modification methodologies. The pfs47 gene was disrupted by transformation of WT P.
falciparum parasites using plasmid pI47 that integrates into the genome through single
cross-over insertion by homologous recombination. Integration results in two nonfunctional copies of pfs47 (Fig 2A). Two independent parental populations were cloned
and from each population one clone (pfs47-.IV and pfs47-.V) was selected for further
analysis. Correct integration of pI47 in the pfs47 locus was confirmed by PCR analysis
and Southern blot analysis of genomic DNA. The integration specific PCR amplifies a
1 kb fragment using primer BVS01, flanking the target region used for integration and
primer L430 located in the plasmid backbone (Fig 2A). Both clones showed the correct
integration fragment of 1 kb which was absent in WT parasites. A non-specific 0.8 kb
fragment was amplified in pI47 (Fig 2C). Correct integration was also shown by Southern
blot analysis of genomic DNA isolated from WT and pfs47- parasites. Genomic WT DNA
digested with NsiI should release a 9.0 kb fragment, whereas two fragments of 7.0 and
10.0 kb will be released in the pfs47- lines following integration. The blot was hybridized
with a pfs47 5’UTR probe which only detects the 7.0 kb integration fragment and the
9.0 kb WT fragment in the pfs47- and WT lines respectively. In a parental population
of transfected parasites a faint WT specific fragment was still detected, while only the
integration specific fragment was present in the cloned pfs47- parasites (Fig 2B).
Next, we analyzed the phenotype of the pfs47- clones. In vitro gametocyte production
and development, sex ratio and gamete formation of pfs47- parasites was comparable to
WT parasites (data not shown). We also checked the expression of the paralog Pfs48/45
Pfs47 is a female specific surface protein l 67
8,2 Kb
HRP-3
(A)
T.g.DHFR/TS
NsiI
NsiI
HRP-2
BVS01
pfs47 L430
BVS01
NsiI
Pfs47 V
-
Wild-type locus
pfs47
BVS02
NsiI
Disrupted locus
10,0 Kb
-
Pfs47 IV
(B)
P. pop.
WT
7,0 Kb
NsiI
676
T.g.DHFR/TS
NsiI
9,0 Kb
BVS02
pfs47
675
Insertion
Construct pI47
pfs47
(D)
9kb
WT spor.
-
Pfs47 V
Pfs47 spor.
-
-
Pfs47 IV
P. pop.
pI47
(C)
WT
7kb
1kb
Pfs48/45 Ab
Pfs230 Ab
Pfs47Ab
Figure 2. (A) Illustration of the pI47 construct used for the targeted gene disruption of pfs47. open box,
genomic DNA; black box, pfs47 ORF; grey box, T. gondii dhfr/ts selection marker cassette; dotted line
plasmid sequence. Primer pairs used for PCR analysis and NsiI restriction sites used for digestion of genomic
DNA for southern blot analysis are indicated. (B) Southern blot analysis of NsiI digested genomic DNA of
WT and pfs47- lines demonstrates correct disruption of pfs47. Blot was probed with a pfs47 5’UTR specific
probe detecting a 9.0 kb band in the WT parasite population and a 7.0 kb band in the pfs47- lines (parental
population, pfs47-IV and pfs47-V) as a result from correct integration of pI47 in the genome. (C) PCR
analysis of genomic DNA of WT and pfs47- lines demonstrates correct integration of pI47 in the genomic
copy of pfs47. Genomic DNA from WT and pfs47- asexual parasites or sporozoites was used as template for
the integration specific PCR reactions using primer pairs BVS01 and L430 amplifying a 1 kb fragment. pI47
plasmid DNA was used as a control.(D) SIFA of pfs47- gametes. Images of live pfs47- gametes in suspension
stained with Pfs48/45 (85RF48/45.5), Pfs230 (63F2A2) and Pfs47 (Pfs47.1), specific mAbs (green, lower
panels). Upper panels show the corresponding bright field images.
and Pfs230 in pfs47- parasites by SIFA analysis. Normal surface expression of these
proteins in the pfs47- parasites was observed (Fig 2D). To determine the role of Pfs47 in
fertilization of gametes and zygote development we determined the oocyst production of
pfs47- gametocytes in mosquitoes using membrane-feeding assays. pfs47- gametocytes
were as infective to mosquitoes as WT parasites, as shown both by the number of
oocysts produced (p>0.6) and the number of infected mosquitoes (Table 1). To further
confirm this finding we collected sporozoites from the infected mosquitoes and analyzed
the genomic DNA by PCR. Fig 2C shows that sporozoites isolated from the mosquitoes
68 l Chapter 3
fed with pfs47- parasites contained the expected pfs47- genotype. Disruption of pfs47
has no effect on fertilization or zygote development and the transmission capacity of P.
falciparum parasites.
Table 1. Oocyst development and transmission capacity of pfs47- parasites is not affected.
Parasite
Oocyst productiona
(IQR)
Infected/dissected
mosquitoes
% Infected mosquitoes
NF54
18
38/40
95
19/20
95
20/20
100
pfs47-IV
pfs47-V
(6-28)
13
(8-26)
18
(4-52)
a
Oocyst production is the median of the oocysts counted at day 7 after feeding of the mosquitoes. IQR is
the inter quartile range. The non-parametric Wilcoxin rank-sum test indicates that there is no significant
difference compared to WT (p=0.86 for pfs47-IV and p=0.62 for pfs47-V).
Antibodies against Pfs47 do not inhibit transmission of
parasites.
Pfs47 mAbs (Pfs47.1-3) were tested in membrane feeding assays to determine their
possible transmission reducing capacity. WT gametocytes were mixed with different
concentrations of each antibody and fed to mosquitoes by membrane feeding.
Transmission capacity of the WT parasites was not affected by any of the three Pfs47specific mAbs, as shown by the lack of significant reduction in oocyst production (p>0.2)
in mosquitoes fed with and without antibodies (Table 2).
Discussion
In the present study we show that pfs47 transcription initiates in stage II-III gametocytes
and is increased from stage IV gametocytes onwards. These results corroborate the
transcription pattern identified by ontology-based pattern identification of transcriptome
Pfs47 is a female specific surface protein l 69
data where pfs47 transcription was found at a low level in early stage II gametocytes and
at a higher level in stage IV and V gametocytes [39]. Although pfs47 and pfs48/45 form
a paralogous gene pair, located only 1.5 kb apart in the genome [6], we found that their
transcription patterns differ remarkably. Transcription of pfs48/45 peaks in the early
gametocyte stages and the protein is expressed in both male and female gametocytes
whereas protein expression of pfs47 is sex specific.
Proteome analysis of the rodent parasite P. berghei [40] demonstrates the presence of
Pb47 in mature gametocytes/gametes and analysis of the proteomes of separated male
and female gametocytes shows female specific expression [41]. In our study, using several
mAbs against Pfs47 in P. falciparum we demonstrate the presence of Pfs47 specifically
in the more mature female gametocytes and its absence in the male gametocyte. In
addition, surface immuno-fluorescence assays demonstrate that Pfs47 is localized on
the surface of macrogametes. Pfs47 therefore, is the first protein of the sexual stages for
which localization on the surface of only the macrogamete is described. Until recently
most surface proteins of macrogametes have been identified by surface iodination [13].
In those studies Pfs47 may have been overlooked because of the similarity in molecular
weight to Pfs48/45. In P.gallinaceum however, an immunogenic protein of 48 kDa
(PgZ-14) was described that is present on macrogametes but not on males [42] and it is
possible that this protein is the ortholog of P47 from P. falciparum.
We found no evidence that Pfs47 has a functional role in fertility and transmission. First
of all, in membrane feeding assays Pfs47 mAbs are not able to block transmission of the
parasite to the mosquito. The capacity of mAbs to block transmission can be related to
epitope recognition as is the case for Pfs48/45 [14,15,16]. We can therefore not exclude
that mAbs that recognize other possible epitopes of Pfs47 could block transmission. Also
differences in isotype and the capacity to fix complement can be critical as is known for
Pfs230 antibodies [17,18,19]. However, the Pfs47 mAbs are rat antibodies of the IgG1
and IgG2a isotype, which may be less suitable for activation of human complement
compared to the IgG2b isotype [43]. Second, disruption of pfs47 also has no effect
on fertilization and subsequent oocyst development, which is in contrast to the clear
effect that disruption of its paralog, p48/45 has on male fertility [6]. It is known that
mutant parasites, generated by single-crossover integration through homologous
recombination, can revert to wild type parasites at low frequency [44]. WT parasites
could not be detected by Southern blot analysis of Pfs47- clones. However, PCR analysis
of asexual genomic DNA and IFA of pfs47- gametocytes indicated a low contamination
70 l Chapter 3
Table 2. Pfs47 mAbs do not inhibit the transmission capacity of wild type gametocytes.
mAb
mAb concentration
µg/ml
Oocyst productiona
(IQR)
% Infected mosquitoes
Control
0
54 (47-81)
100
0
34 (29-52)
100
0
69 (58-74)
90
100
64 (47-70)
100
50
58 (41-64)
100
25
48 (45-53)
100
100
47 (41-53)
100
50
68 (48-76)
100
25
66 (47-93)
100
100
78 (60-91)
100
50
70 (62-81)
100
25
82 (59-105)
100
Pfs47.1
Pfs47.2
Pfs47.3
The transmission blocking capacity of Pfs47 mAbs was tested in membrane feeding assays. WT gametocytes were incubated with different concentrations of Pfs47.1, Pfs47.2 and Pfs47.3 or without mAbs
(control). aOocyst production is the median of the oocysts counted in 10 mosquitoes at day 7 after
feeding. IQR is the inter quartile range. The non-parametric Wilcoxin rank-sum test indicates that there
is no significant reduction for any of the groups compared to the control groups (p>0.2).
with a frequency of less than 10-3 with wild type parasites (results not shown). This
corresponds to one gametocyte per μl in the membrane-feeding assay. Transmission
experiments with gametocyte dilutions performed in our laboratory indicate that it is
unlikely that infection of mosquitoes results from dilutions of one gametocyte per μl
(Schneider and Bousema, unpublished data). In addition, PCR analysis of sporozoites
isolated form mosquitoes that were fed with pfs47- gametocytes clearly showed that
normal fertilization and zygote development rather than reversion to WT played a role
in pfs47- parasites. The observed high numbers of oocysts formed with pfs47- parasites
as well as the observed pfs47- genotype of the sporozoites proves that fertilization is not
affected and indicates redundancy in protein function for Pfs47.
Redundancy in function of Plasmodium proteins has been shown to occur frequently in
processes of recognition and invasion of erythrocytes by the merozoite stage [45] and
has also been described for proteins on the surface of zygotes/ookinetes, such as the
paralog pair P25 and P28 [23]. P48/45 has a critical role in fertility of the male gamete,
Pfs47 is a female specific surface protein l 71
however mutant parasites lacking P48/45 are not completely blocked in their ability to
fertilize in vivo both in P. berghei and in P. falciparum demonstrating partial redundancy
[6]. From the studies on the paralog pairs P48/45&P47 and P230&P230p it is unlikely
that one member of these paralog pairs is the protein that compensates for the loss of
function of the other member. Pfs47 cannot compensate for the essential function of
Pfs48/45 in male gametes due to its female specific expression. Pfs48/45 on the other
hand, can potentially compensate for any function of Pfs47 in female fertility as both
proteins are expressed on the surface of macrogametes. As for Pfs230 and Pf230p, the
distinct expression patterns and subcellular locations of these proteins suggest that
they are not mutually redundant. [7]. The studies on the 6-cys family highlight that
redundancy of protein function is not only a feature of proteins involved in processes
that are under immune pressure of the vertebrate host such as erythrocyte invasion [45]
but also of proteins involved in fertilization [6] and ookinete function [23].
In conclusion our studies show redundancy in protein function of Pfs47 on the surface
of the female gamete. Together with the lack of transmission blocking capacity of Pfs47
mAbs these results do not support candidacy of Pfs47 as a transmission-blocking vaccine
target.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Dr. Kim C. Williamson for providing the α-tubulin-II
antibodies and Jolanda Klaassen, Astrid Pauwelsen and Laura Pelser of the Radboud
University Nijmegen for mosquito dissections. Fluorescence microscopy was performed
at the Microscopic Imaging Centre (MIC) of the Nijmegen Centre for Molecular Life
Sciences (NCMLS), the Netherlands.
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Plasmodium falciparum: its variability with gametocyte numbers and concentration of antibody.
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protein in Plasmodium falciparum. Mol Biochem Parasitol 56: 239-250.
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Chapter 4
Male and female specific GFP expression in
Plasmodium falciparum parasites
Ben C.L. van Schaijka, Edwin Lasonderb,Mark S. Gresnigt a, Annet Italiaandera,
Martijn W. Vosa, Rob Woestenenk c, and Robert W. Sauerweina
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands.
b
Center for Molecular and Biomolecular Informatics, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen,
The Netherlands.
c
Department of Laboratory Medicine, Laboratory of Hematology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical
Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
a
Manuscript in preparation
76 l Chapter 4
Abstract
Plasmodium falciparum, cause of the lethal form of malaria is an obligate sexually
reproducing parasite. Fertilization takes place directly after the sexual stages of the
parasite, the male and female gametocytes are taken up by the Anopheles mosquito
as it takes a blood meal from an infected individual. This transition of the sexual stages
from humans to the mosquito also represents a critical phase in the parasite life cycle
qualifying it as a possible target to interfere in the life cycle. In order to investigate genome
wide expression of genes which may be specifically involved in processes associated with
sexual reproduction, it is essential to be able to differentiate between male and female
parasites as well as separation of these forms for further analysis. We studied the sex
specific gene activation of several P. falciparum genes and generated two parasite reporter
lines which express GFP in a sex specific manner. Male or female specific GFP expression
was controlled by the promoter sequences of dyneine and P47 respectively and male
and female specific expression of GFP was confirmed by immuno fluorescence analysis.
We also found that male (DynGFP) and female (47GFP) gametocytes are amenable to
flow cytometry and produced highly purified male and female gametocyte populations.
These populations can be used for detailed studies into the sexual reproduction of the
parasite including proteomic and microarray experiments to determine genome wide
male and female specific gene expression but also investigations into factors influencing
sex ratio both in laboratory and field conditions. These sex specific reporter parasites
will allow further studies into the biology of sexual reproduction in malaria parasites and
identify targets to interrupt the transmission to mosquitoes.
Generation of male and female specific reporter parasites l 77
Introduction
The Plasmodium parasite, cause of malaria is an obligate sexually reproducing parasite.
The sexual stages of the parasite, the male and female gametocytes are generated from
asexual parasites in the blood of the human host and are taken up by the Anopheles
mosquito as it takes a blood meal from an infected individual. Fertilization of female
gametocytes takes place directly after the gametocytes are ingested by the mosquito.
Following reproductive success, the parasites form sporozoites which can infect humans
as the mosquito takes a next blood meal.
The sexual stage of the parasite is one of the most complex stages of the parasite life
cycle. In P. falciparum commitment to sexual differentiation occurs prior to schizont
maturation resulting in either male or female gametocytes [1]. Mature gametocytes
activate and emerge from the red blood cell once inside the mosquito. Stage V male
gametocytes undergo three rapid rounds of DNA replication to form eight microgametes
which are released from the activated gametocyte during a process called exflagellation
[2,3]. The stage V female gametocyte emerges from the red blood cell as a rounded
gamete which is penetrated by the male gamete leading to zygote formation. The zygote
and ookinete are the sole diploid and tetraploid stages in the Plasmodium life cycle and
meiosis occurs within a few hours after zygote formation [4,5]. The remaining life cycle
stages consist of haploid forms and complete the sporogonic development to infectious
sporozoites.
The sexual stage is a critical phase in the parasite life cycle as in numbers of parasites this
stage can be considered a bottle neck and a possible target to interfere in the life cycle
(e.g. transmission blocking vaccines [6,7]). Conversely, it has also been shown that the
sexual stages are very efficient in localization, recognition and fertilization as even low
numbers of gametocytes in the human host are able to cause infection in mosquitoes
[8]. Formation of filamentous cell-to-cell connections has recently been proposed as a
possible mechanism by which male and female gametes facilitate intimate contact [9].
These sequences of events demand an orchestrated expression of sex specific genes
and or genes that have a sex specific function. In preparation of the parasite transition
to the mosquito stages mRNA can be translationally repressed specifically in female
gametocytes by an RNA helicase, DOZI (e.g. P25) exemplifying the tight regulation of
expression [10].
78 l Chapter 4
Several male and female specific genes and fertility factors have been described. The
female specific protein Pfg377 plays a fundamental role in the formation of osmiophilic
bodies and female gametocytes lacking Pfg377 are significantly less efficient in
emergence from the erythrocytes upon induction of gametogenesis [11,12]. The paralog
of P230 (P230p) is also a known male specific protein but its function has not been
analyzed [13,14]. α-Tubulin II is known as a male specific protein but recent publications
show low abundant expression in mitotic and post-mitotic structures in asexual parasites
[15,16] and in early stage female gametocytes [17]. Predominance of α-tubulin II in
mature stage male gametocytes compared to female gametocytes is still beyond doubt
[18]. A different male specific protein functioning in the final step of fertilization is GCS1
(Generative cell specific 1). In P.berghei GCS1 deletion parasites are unable to fertilize
and completely abolish formation of the mosquito stages [19,20].
The 6-cysteine protein P48/45 has a specific role in male fertility but the protein is
expressed in both male and female gametocytes and gametes. Its paralog P47 on the
other hand is essential for female fertility in P.berghei and is expressed specifically
in female gametocytes in both P. berghei and P. falciparum [21,22,23,24]. Recently
the proteome of young and mature gametocyte has been analyzed and many of the
identified proteins are potentially involved in the process of sexual reproduction [25].
In order to investigate genome wide expression of genes which may be specifically
involved in processes associated with sexual reproduction it is essential to be able to
differentiate between male and female parasites as well as separation of these forms
for further analysis. We studied the sex specific gene activation of several P. falciparum
genes and generated parasite reporter lines which express GFP in a sex specific manner.
Reporter gene expression is a commonly used molecular approach to determine the
onset of expression of a given gene in Plasmodium (e.g. [13]). Generally a DNA sequence
of one thousand base pairs directly upstream of the open reading frame (ORF) contains
the regulatory region that induces stage specific expression of the reporter protein. Here
this approach is used to generate sex specific GFP expression. We use the regulatory
regions of a dyneine and P47 respectively for the generation of a male and a female
specific reporter line in P. falciparum. Gametocytes produced from these lines are
amenable to sorting by flow cytometry, thereby producing highly purified male and
female gametocyte populations.
Generation of male and female specific reporter parasites l 79
MALE
3’hrp2
1,9kb
s
Δp52
Tgdhfr
p
5’hrp3
t-p52
p52
p
p3
4,6kb
p1
gfp
FEMALE
5’Dyn
s p1 1,2kb p2 p
pDyngfp
gfp 5’Dyn
gfp
Chr. 4
s
s
5,3kb
bsd
3’hrp2
3’hrp2 Tgdhfr 5’hrp3 Δp52
p
5’p47
Δp52
pDyngfp
p4
5’hrp3
p5
0,3kb
1,4kb
1,2kb
Integration PCR
anti-GFP
BSD PCR
WT PCR
anti P47
anti-GFP
merge
bright field
10µm
bright field
p47GFP
anti αTubII
10µm
merge
Figure 1. Generation and validation of P.falciparum sex specific GFP reporter parasites (A) Schematic
representation of the single cross over integration of pDynGFP into the p52 genomic locus of wild-type
(WT) parasites. The construct pDynGFP shows the targeting fragment of the p52 gene (t-p52,in black);
Tgdhfr, T. gondii dhfr/ts selection cassette; hrp, histidine rich protein; 5’Dyn, 5’flanking region of Dyneine
PF10_0224; gfp(in green), green fluorescent protein; Δp52, remaining non functional fragments of p52
following integration of pDynGFP; p1, p2 and p1, p3: PCR primer pairs specific for pDynGFP integration and
WT parasites respectively. (B) Schematic representation of the episomal construct p47GFP. bsd, blasticidins-deaminase gene; hrp, histidine rich protein; 5’p47, 5’flanking region of p47 (PF13_0248); gfp(in green),
green fluorescent protein; p4, p5: PCR primer pair specific for BSD. (C) PCR analysis of genomic DNA from
WT and DynGFP asexual parasites confirming the integration of pDynGFP in the p52 gene. The vector
pDynGFP is used as a control. See A for location of the primers p1 and p2 and the expected product sizes are
1,2kb for integration PCR and 1,4kb for the WT PCR. (D) PCR analysis of genomic DNA from WT and 47GFP
asexual parasites confirming episomal maintenance of p47GFP. The vector p47GFP is used as a control.
See B for location of the primers p4 and p5 and the expected product size is 0,3kb for the BSD PCR. (E and
F) Analysis of sex specific GFP expression in DynGFP(E) and 47GFP(F) gametocytes. Gametocytes were
stained with GFP antibodies (green, top left panels E and F) and DynGFP gametocytes were counterstained
by P47antibodies (red, top right panel E) and 47GFP gametocytes were counterstained by α-tubulin II
antibodies(red, top right panel F). The bright field images are shown on the bottom left and these panels
include a 10μm size bar. The merged panels are shown in the bottom right panels.
80 l Chapter 4
Materials and Methods
Parasite culture
P. falciparum parasites NF45 (wildtype (WT)), pCMB.BSD.5’ α-Tubulin-II.DS-red transfected parasite
lines and p47GFP and pDynGFP transfected parasites were cultured using a semi automated
culture system as described [26,27]. Fresh human red blood cells and serum were obtained from
Dutch National blood bank (Sanquin Nijmegen, NL; permission granted from donors for the use
of blood products for malaria research). Cloning of transgenic parasites was performed by the
method of limiting dilution in 96 well plates [28]. Parasites of the positive wells were transferred
to the semi-automated culture system and cultured for further phenotype and genotype analyses.
Gametocyte culture and purification
Gametocyte cultures were performed in the semi-automated shaker system and were started
at 5% hematocrite and 0,5% parasiteamia. Gametocyte cultures were treated with N-acetylglucosamine on day 7 to eliminate asexual parasites. The production gametocytes was established
in cultures at day 13-15 after start of the gametocyte cultures by counting the number of mature
gametocytes (stages IV/V) in Giemsa stained thin blood films [29]. Male gamete formation was
determined by activation of exflagellation. Samples of 10µl were taken from the cultures, infected
red blood cells pelleted by centrifugation and resuspended in 10µl of Fetal Calf Serum (pH 8.0) at
room temperature for 10 minutes and then mounted on a cover slip. Exflagellation centers were
detected under the light-microscope in a single cell layer of red blood cells at a 400x magnification
[30]. Gametocytes were concentrated in 37ºC culture medium and separated from erythrocytes
and culture debris using a 63% and a 33% percoll density gradient and subsequently taken up
in a 4ºC suspended animation (SA) buffer (10 mM Tris, pH 7.3, 170 mM. NaCl, 10 mM glucose).
Gametocytes were further purified by magnetic separation from uninfected red blood cells using
MACS columns [31,32].
Generation of male and female specific fluorescent parasite lines.
Fluorescent parasites were generated by electroporation of NF54 asexual parasites with the
non-integrating plasmids pCMB.BSD.5’ α-Tubulin-II.DS-red [13] and p47GFP or the integration
plasmid pDynGFP as described [33], using a BTX electroporation system. Selection of transformed
parasites was performed using 2,6 – 15 µg/ml of Blasticidin-S-HCL (Invitrogen) as was previously
described for the non integrating plasmids [34] or using 2µM pyrimethamine selection for the P52
integrating plasmid [35].
The male specific reporter construct was generated by inserting a 1238bp fragment of
the 5’FR of the Dyneine PF10_0224 obtained by PCR amplification [36] using primers
BVS21 (5’gggtctagatattgaaaaacataatatctaagaggg) containing an XbaI site and BVS22
(5’ggccgcgggccatttttttaatgaagg) containing a SacII site into pCMB.BSD.5’FR.GFP using the XbaI and
Generation of male and female specific reporter parasites l 81
SacII sites respectively . The resulting construct was digested with the restriction enzymes SpeI and
XbaI generating the fragment 5’dyneine PF10_0224.GFP which was placed in the NotI (made blunt
using T4 polymerase) and SacII sites of the P52 targeting construct MI44 [35] after subcloning in
pBluescript KS(+)using the SmaI and SacII sites thereby generating the construct pDynGFP.
The female specific reporter construct pCMB.BSD.5’P47.GFP (p47GFP) was generated by inserting
a 1690bp fragment of the 5’FR of Pfs47(PF13_0248), obtained by PCR amplification [36] using
primers BVS09 (5’-gctgatcattcttcccatctagattaaaaataaacaaataaataaataaataaac) and BVS10
(5’-ggggggggcgcctaagtctttaaaagaagcggc) into the XbaI and SacII restriction sites of the previously
described reporter plasmid pCMB.BSD.5’FR.GFP [13]. All DNA fragments were amplified by PCR
amplification (Phusion, Finnzymes) from genomic P. falciparum DNA (NF54 strain) and all PCR
fragments were sequenced after TOPO TA (Invitrogen) sub-cloning.
Genetic characterization
Genotype analysis of transformed 47GFP or DynGFP asexual parasites was performed by diagnostic
PCR [36]. Genomic DNA of blood stages of WT or transformed parasites was isolated as described
[37].The p47GFP plasmid was detected by a diagnostic PCR specific for BSD using the primer pair
(p4,p5) BVS166 (5’ gtctcaagaagaatccaccctc) and BVS168 (5’ atgcagatcgagaagcacctg).
Correct integration of construct pDynGFP in the pf52 locus was analyzed using primer pair (p1,p2)
BVS67 (5’- gtatgtattggtgcttattcatatgtgttacc) and BVS68 (5’- caacgaaaagagagatcacatgatcc) and for
the presence of WT using primer pair (p1,p3) BVS67 and 1676 (5’-ggactagttttgccagaatgttcttgttcg),
both annealing outside the target region used for integration.
Immuno-fluorescence assay of fixed or suspended gametocytes
WT, α-Tubulin-II.DS-red, DynGFP or 47GFP gametocytes were either air-dried on glass slides
coated with poly-L-Lysine or suspended in PBS. The slides or cells were incubated in PBS containing
primary mAbs for 1 hour at room temperature and subsequently washed with PBS and incubated
with anti-rat-ALEXA488 or anti-mouse-ALEXA488 secondary antibodies (Molecular probes) or
suspended gametocytes were mounted and staining or GFP/DS-Red expression was visualized and
photographed on a Leica fluorescence microscope with digital camera.
Flow cytometry of Gametocytes
Gametocytes were sorted using the Coulter Epics Elite flow cytometer (Beckman Coulter) keeping
cells at 4ºC in SA buffer (10 mM Tris, pH 7.3, 170 mM. NaCl, 10 mM glucose). An aliquot of sorted
cells was reanalyzed to determine purity of sorting.
82 l Chapter 4
Results and discussion
Generation of female specific GFP reporter parasites
To evaluate female specific gene expression in P. falciparum we adapted the previously
described reporter plasmid pCMB.BSD.5’FR.GFP [13] containing the Blasticidin
deaminase (BSD) resistance marker [34] and GFP controlled by a 5’ flanking region (5’FR)
of a gene of interest. Previously the female specific surface expression of P47 member
of the 6-cysteine protein family has been described [23]. To determine the regulatory
DNA sequence required for female specific expression of P47 we cloned a 1690 base
pair P47 5’FR into the reporter plasmid generating pCMB.BSD.5’P47.GFP (p47GFP) and
transfected NF54 parasites (Fig.1b). The transfected parasites were selected using the
standard concentration of 2,6 µg/ml blasticidin (BSD) and maintenance of plasmid was
analyzed by BSD specific PCR (Fig.1d). After obtaining a stable transfected parasite
population, fluorescent gametocytes were readily observed in mature gametocyte
cultures but were not present in the cultures of asexual parasites. The male to female
ratio is generally female biased in P. falciparum and is highly dependent on the parasite
isolate or environmental factors [38]. In 47GFP gametocyte cultures we found that only
6,6% of all gametocytes were fluorescent as determined by fluorescence activated cell
sorting (FACS) likely due to the absence of plasmids in the majority of the gametocyte
population(data not shown). Plasmid copy numbers per cell have been described to
depend on the BSD concentrations used [34] and we therefore gradually increased
the drug concentration to 15 µg/ml BSD in both asexual and gametocyte cultures.
We subsequently reached a maximum of 24% fluorescent gametocytes (see Fig. 2).
Expression of GFP commenced in stage III-IV gametocytes and GFP expression increased
until activated female gametes (data not shown). This expression pattern is in agreement
with our previous analyses showing a gradual increase in expression of P47 from stage
II-III gametocytes to gametes by northern blot analysis [23]. It is noteworthy that the
percentage of positive cells gradually decreased during several weeks of culturing.
This decrease may be associated with drug resistance which has been shown to occur
rapidly using the BSD selection system [39]. Taken together we have generated a parasite
line that controle by the P47 5’FR expresses GFP in a subpopulation of parasites with
expression restricted to the gametocyte stages.
Generation of male and female specific reporter parasites l 83
Selection of a male specific 5’FR
To date only several male specific genes have been described. GCS1 and P230p are
however not highly expressed proteins [24] and the latter is not active in stage V
gametocyctes [14] restricting their use as a male specific 5’FR. Originally α-tubulin II
expression was described as a male specific protein [18] but recently expression of
α-tubulin II was also found in asexual parasites and young gametocytes [15,17]. We
confirmed that some DS-red positive gametocytes were stained by female specific
P47 antibodies in the pCMB.BSD.5’ α-Tubulin-II.DS-red [13] transfected parasites
indicating that the 5’FR of α-tubulin-II does not lead to male specific expression (data
not shown). It is therefore puzzling that α-tubulin-II antibodies do react predominantly
with mature male gametocytes. Fennell et.al suggested that the α-tubulin-II protein is
post translationally modified by polyglutamylation and one of the suggested modifying
enzymes is differentially expressed in male and female gametocytes possibly influencing
the sex specific binding of α-tubulin-II antibodies [16]. It is clear from the previous
section that highly expressed male specific genes need to be identified. The P.berghei
separated male and female proteome has previously been described and this data set
was analyzed for candidate male specific genes [24]. Based on the high expression in
male gametocyte populations and absence in the female populations we used a dyneine
located on chromosome 10 of P. falciparum (Pf10_0224).
Generation of male specific GFP reporter parasites
To determine the regulatory DNA sequence required for male specific expression of the
selected dyneine we cloned a 1240 base pair 5’FR of Pf10_0224 controlling GFP into the
P52 targeting construct mI44 thereby generating (pDynGFP)(Fig.1a). Stable integration
was chosen to avoid the BSD resistance encountered in the female lines and prevent
use of high drug concentrations necessary for obtaining a high plasmid copy number
(see above). P52 was used as a neutral targeting locus for stable integration because
no phenotype was observed in the gametocyte stages of P52 disrupted parasites [35].
84 l Chapter 4
FS/SS
FS/GFP
Cells/GFP
WT
47GFP
DynGFP
Figure 2. Flow cytometry of percoll purified WT, percoll and MACS purified 47GFP and DynGFP
gametocytes(from top to bottem). The panels on the left represent dot blots of forward scatter (FS) and
side scatter(SS). The gating of the gametocyte population(gct) is indicated and uninfected erythrocytes
population (e) is shown. The panels in the middle column represent the FS and the GFP fluorescence intensity
measured in PMT2 channel. Gating of GFP positive or negative gametocytes was based on the WT panel.
The panels on the right indicate peaks of the number of cells and their fluorescence intensity. In P47GFP
gametocytes the fluorescence intensity gradually increases and ~24% of the gametocyte population was
sorted. The DynGFP gametocytes show a clear isolated population of which ~42% was sorted. The gating
strategy applied was more stringent for the male population to prevent contamination due to the expected
high female:male ratio. FACS experiments are representative of a series of experiments performed.
NF54 asexual parasites were transfected with pDynGFP and following selection and
cloning of parasites by limiting dilution , integration was confirmed by PCR analysis
(Fig. 1c). Next gametocyte cultures were initiated and by LM we found that ~43% of the
gametocyte population brightly expressed GFP which is in agreement with the expected
female biased ratio in Plasmodium gametocytes [38].
Generation of male and female specific reporter parasites l 85
Confirmation of sex specific GFP expression
47GFP and DynGFP gametocytes were analyzed by fixed IFA using antibodies specific
for α-Tubulin-II, P47 and antibodies specific for GFP. All p47GFP gametocytes positive
for GFP were negative for α-Tubulin-II (Fig. 1f) suggesting that GFP was expressed
specifically in female gametocytes. A small proportion of gametocytes were negative
for both α-Tubulin-II and GFP which are likely female gametocytes lacking a plasmid or
the immature gametocytes in which the P47 5’FR is inactive. All DynGFP gametocytes
positive for GFP were negative for P47 antibody staining and all GFP negative DynGFP
gametocytes were positive for P47 (Fig. 1e). Additionally exflagellation was induced
in pDynGFP and p47GFP gametocyte cultures. As expected, in the male reporter
line DynGFP all exflagellating centers were all positive for GFP while no GFP positive
exflagellation centers were observed in the female reporter line 47GFP using suspension
IFA (data not shown).
Flow cytometry of male and female gametocytes
We determined whether these gametocytes could be separated by flow cytometry. Fig.
2 shows the gating strategy based on percoll purified WT gametocytes. The gametocyte
population was gated from the residual red blood cells by forward scatter (FS) and side
scatter (SS). Using the PMT2 channel the gate was set for GFP negative cells, a critical
step because gametocytes exhibit a low level of auto-fluorescence (Fig.2). Next 47GFP
and DynGFP gametocyte cultures were cleaned from red blood cell contamination
using percoll followed by MACS isolation to obtain ~90% gametocyte populations for
subsequently flow cytometry experiments. P47GFP gametocytes exhibited varying
levels of GFP expression up to two fold higher compared to WT gametocytes. GFP
positive gametocytes were collected by flow cytometry and were analyzed by fixed IFA
and α-tubulin-II counterstaining to determine the purity. By counting negative GFP and
positive α-tubulin II gametocytes the female population was shown to be ~95% pure.
DynGFP gametocytes showed a distinct population of GFP positive gametocytes. The
population was sorted using a more stringent gating strategy for pDynGFP gametocytes
compared to the P47GFP population(Fig.2). The sorted pDynGFP gametocytes were
subsequently analyzed by IFA by counterstaining with P47 antibodies and in 100 counted
male gametocytes we were not able to detect any female gameocytes, indicating > 99%
86 l Chapter 4
pure male population. The higher purity of the male population compared to the female
population is likely caused by the more stringent gating strategy combined with the
more distinct expression pattern in PdynGFP compared to P47GFP.
We have shown that the parasite clones PdynGFP and P47GFP can be used to sort male
and female gametocytes respectively. These sorted populations can be used to analyze
male and female specific expression by proteomic or micro-array analysis or to validate
molecular tests for male / female ratios in field isolates and lastly, morphology of male
versus female gametocytes can now be analyzed in more detail.
Acknowledgements
Thanks to Geert-Jan van Gemert, Henri Witteveen and Thomas Bernsen for culturing
assistance, Saliha Eksi and Kim C. Williamson for the kind gift of reporter plasmids pCMB.
BSD.5’ α-Tubulin-II.DS-red and pCMB.BSD.5’FR.GFP and Shahid M. Khan for discussions
concerning the male reporter parasites.
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Chapter 5
Expression and GPI anchoring of P230
in ΔP48/45 Plasmodium falciparum
sexual stage parasites
Ben C.L. van Schaijka, Geert-Jan van Gemerta ,Marga van de Vegte-Bolmera, Saliha
Eksib, Kim C. Williamsonb and Robert W. Sauerweina
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands.
b
Department of Biology, Loyola University, Chicago, IL, USA
a
90 l Chapter 5
Abstract
P230 and P48/45 are two members of the Plasmodium falciparum 6-cysteine protein
family. Both proteins are located on the surface of sexual stage malaria parasites and
both proteins are recognized as targets for a transmission blocking vaccine. The male
fertility factor P48/45 is attached to the gamete membrane through GPI-anchoring
while P230 which lacks a GPI-anchor is retained on the gamete surface by formation
of a protein complex with P48/45. Consequently, in p48/45 gene disruption studies,
P230 was expressed however was not found on the surface of gametes. Here we study
the function of P230 on the surface of gametes independently of P48/45 by generating
Δp48/45 parasites that express a chimeric form of P230 which contains a GPI-anchor. In
the sexual stages of the parasites we study the expression pattern of P230GPI and other
sexual stage proteins and determine the infectivity of P230GPI gametes to Anopheles
mosquitoes.
GPI anchoring of P230 in P. falciparum l 91
Introduction
The sexual stage of the malaria parasite is one of the critical phases during the Plasmodium
life cycle. The sexual stage precursor cells, the gametocytes are formed in human red
blood cells inside the human host and are ingested as the Anopheles mosquito takes a
blood meal. Inside the mosquito midgut the male and female gametocytes emerge from
the red blood cell and subsequently male gametes must locate, attach to and fuse with
female gametes in order to form a zygote. These critical events are governed by different
protein-protein interactions on the surface of male and female gametes and mark the
start of successful sporogony.
An important vaccine strategy to interrupt the life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum is
to block the transmission of sexual stage parasites from man to mosquito. After being
ingested by the mosquito the gametes that have emerged from the red blood cell
are susceptible to human antibodies that can block the transmission of the parasite.
Antibodies that recognize two members of the 6-cysteine protein family, P230 and
P48/45 have been identified as such transmission blocking antibodies (reviewed in
[1,2]). P48/45 antibodies are directly able to block transmission possibly by interfering in
essential protein-protein interactions [3,4,5,6] and P230 antibodies require complement
activated lysis of gametes to block transmission [7,8,9]. Targeted disruption of p48/45
revealed an essential role for the protein in the fertility of male parasites in P. berghei
and disruption of p48/45 in P. falciparum resulted in strongly reduced transmission
[10]. Protein localization studies have shown that P48/45 is expressed on the surface of
both male and female P. falciparum gametes and indeed P48/45 is predicted to be GPIanchored [3,11,12]. Together the data suggest an essential function for P48/45 on the
surface of male gametes.
In gametocytes, P230 is localized to the parasitophorous vacuole as a 363kDa precursor
protein. During gametogenesis the precursor protein is processed by proteases into a 300
kDa and a 307 kDa form which are subsequently found on the surface of the parasites.
The 47 kDa and 35 kDa cleavage products are found in the medium following emergence
of the gametes and their function remains to be elucidated [13,14,15].
92 l Chapter 5
P230 unlike P48/45, does not have a GPI anchor but rather protein complex formation
with P48/45 is thought to retain the protein to the gamete surface [15,16,17,18,19].
Consequently, in p48/45 disruption studies, P230 was not found on the surface of
gametes even though expression of the protein and stage specific processing was
comparable to WT parasites [10,20].Here we study the function of P230 on the surface
of gametes independently of P48/45 by generating Δp48/45 parasites that express a
chimeric form of P230 which contains a GPI-anchor to gain more insight into the function
of two important transmission blocking target antigens P230 and P48/45. We study
the effect of the GPI-anchoring of “P230GPI” by analyzing the expression pattern of
P230 as well as the phenotype of P230GPI parasites including transmission of P230GPI
gametocytes to Anopheles mosquitoes.
Materials and Methods
Parasite culture
P. falciparum parasites line NF54 (wildtype (WT)), Δp48/45 [10] and p230GPI parasites were
cultured using a semi automated culture system as described [21,22]. Gametocyte development,
sex ratio and in vitro gamete formation were determined as described [23].
Generation of p230GPI parasites
The predicted GPI anchor sequence of P25 (PF10_0303) was added to the p230 gene (PFB0405w)
of P. falciparum by site specific integration with the insertion plasmid pI230GPI, a derivative
of the previously described pDT. Tg23 plasmid [24]. pI230GPI was constructed by cloning an
internal 1198 bp SacII -SpeI fragment of the p230 3’terminal coding sequence, obtained by PCR
amplification [25] using primers BVS12 (5’-gccgccgcggAAGCTTTCTCAAGTATTTTGC) and BVS11
(5’-gccgactagTGTTAAACAAGAAGATGTACCTTCG), followed by a 77bp XbaI-SacII p25GPI fragment
obtained from modified VR1020 [26] into the SpeI-XbaI restriction sites of the pCBM-BSD
vector[27]. This vector confers resistance to Blasticidin rather than pyrimethamine to which
Δp48/45 parasites are insensitive. Transfection of Δp48/45 [10] bloodstage parasites was
performed as described [28], using a BTX electroporation system. Selection of p230GPI parasites
was performed as described [24].
Genotype analysis of transfected parasites was performed by Southern blot analysis. Genomic
DNA of WT, Δp48/45 or pI230GPI transfected parasites was isolated [29] and digested with NheI
and BamHI, size fractionated on a 0.8% agarose gel and transferred to a Hybond-N membrane
(Amersham) by gravitational flow [29]. The blot was prehybridized in Church buffer [30] followed by
GPI anchoring of P230 in P. falciparum l 93
hybridization to a p230 specific radioactive probe. The probe was an 1198 bp SacII -SpeI fragment
of pI230GPI which was labeled using the High Prime DNA labeling kit (Roche) and purified with
Micro Biospin columns (Biorad).
Immuno-fluorescence assay of fixed gametocytes or live gametes in
suspension
WT , Δp48/45 or p230GPI gametocytes were either air-dried on glass slides coated with poly-LLysine or stimulated to form gametes in a suspension containing FCS for 1 hour [23]. The slides
or gametes were incubated in PBS containing primary mAbs for 1 hour at room temperature and
subsequently washed with PBS and incubated with anti-rat-ALEXA488 or anti-mouse-ALEXA488
secondary antibodies (Molecular probes). Staining was visualized and photographed on a Leica
fluorescence microscope with digital camera.
Membrane feeding assay
Membrane feeding assays were performed as described [23]. Briefly, 14-day-old cultures from
WT , Δp48/45 or p230GPI gametocytes were fed to female Anopheles stephensi. On day 7 the
mosquitoes were dissected and examined for midgut oocysts as described [23,31].
A
6,7 Kb
bsd
hrp-3
BamHI
BamHI
BamHI
p230
hrp-2
5,7 Kb
p230
p25gpi
p230
bsd
9,7 Kb
B
9.7kb
6.7kb
5.7kb
2.8kb
Insertion construct
pI230GPI
p25gpi
NheI
BamHI
Δp48/45
NheI
Δp230
Δp48/45 ko + p230gpi
2,8 Kb
Figure 1(A) Illustration of the pI230GPI construct used for
the insertion of the p25GPI anchor in p230. Open box,
genomic DNA; black box, p230 ORF; grey box, Blasticidin
selection marker cassette; dotted line plasmid sequence.
The BamHI and NsiI restriction sites used for digestion of
genomic DNA for southern blot analysis are indicated. (B)
Southern blot analysis of BamHI and NsiI digested genomic
DNA of WT, Δp48/45 and p230GPI lines demonstrates
correct insertion of pI230GPI. The blot was probed with a
p230 specific probe detecting a 5.7 kb fragment in the WT
and Δp48/45 parasite populations and two fragments of 9.7
kb and 2.8 kb in the p230GPI lines (p230GPI TrfI; p230GPI
F4 and p230GPI F9) as a result from correct integration of
pI230GPI in the genome. The 6.7 kb fragment in p230GPI
TrfI corresponds to the molecular weight of the plasmid.
94 l Chapter 5
Results
GPI-anchoring of p230 in Δp48/45 parasites
To more precisely analyze the function of P230 on the surface of gametes independently
of P48/45 we generated mutant parasite lines in which the predicted p25 GPI anchor
sequence was fused to the 3’terminus of p230 through standard genetic modification
methodologies, generating the parasite line p230gpi. The novel p230gpi sequence was
integrated into the endogenous p230 gene by transformation of Δp48/45 P. falciparum
parasites [10] using plasmid pI230GPI that integrates into the genome through single
cross-over insertion by homologous recombination. Integration results in a novel
functional p230 C-terminus containing the predicted p25 GPI anchor sequence and a
residual non-functional copy of the endogenous 3’ terminus of p230 (Fig 1A). Two clones
(p230gpi.F4 and p230gpi.F9) were selected from the parental populations for further
analysis.
Correct integration of pI230GPI into the p230 locus was confirmed by Southern blot
analysis of genomic DNA isolated from WT, Δp48/45 or p230gpi parasites. Genomic WT
DNA digested with NheI and BamHI released a 5.7 kb fragment containing p230 which
P230 (63 2a2)
P230 (18f25)
P48/45
P47
Control
Figure 2. Gametocyte Expression of P230. Immunofluorescence assay of fixed P230GPI F4 gametocytes
stained with two P230 mAbs (63F2A2, 18F25) and as controls P48/45 mAbs (85RF45.3 and 85RF45.5 ) and
P47 mAbs (Pfs47.1) and visualized with secondary fluorescently labeled antibody. Lower panels represent
the corresponding bright field images.
GPI anchoring of P230 in P. falciparum l 95
was detected in both WT and Δp48/45 samples, whereas two fragments of 9.7 kb and
2.8 kb were released in the p230gpi lines following integration. The blot was hybridized
to a p230 specific radioactive probe. In the parental population of transfected parasites
four fragments were detected which correspond to the WT fragments, both integration
specific fragments and a fragment corresponding to the molecular weight of the plasmid
pI230GPI respectively. In both p230gpi clones the two integration specific fragments
were present however also a faint fragment corresponding to the WT p230 fragment was
visible (Fig 1B).These fragments were clearly responsible for only a minimal proportion
of the parasite population and we expect that these low level signals reflected the
incidence of reversion events to WT p230 parasites which are frequently observed when
the method of single cross over mutagenesis in P. falciparum is used [32,33]. The low
levels of reversion were not expected to play an important role in downstream analyses
as addition of a GPI anchor to p230 was expected to result in a gain-off-function.
P230 expression in p230gpi parasites
Next, we analyzed the phenotype of the p230gpi clones. In vitro gametocyte production
and development, sex ratio and also male gamete formation (exflagellation) of p230gpi
clones were comparable to Δp48/45 and WT parasites (Table 1). The expression of P230 in
p230gpi gametocytes was analyzed by immuno-fluorescence assay (IFA) and localization
of P230 was observed predominantly in the periphery of the gametocyte and also in
the cytoplasm (Fig 2). This localization pattern is consistent with that previously found
in Δp48/45 parasites [20] and in WT parasites where the stage specific processing of
P230 was investigated and the unprocessed 363kDa form of P230 was located in the
parasitophorous vacuole preceding gametogenesis [13,14]. P47 was expressed normally
in the female gametocyte and was not affected by the lack of its paralog P48/45 or the
addition of a GPI anchor to P230 (Fig 2). Suspension IFA (SIFA) of activated gametocytes
showed that gametes expressed P47 on the surface of p230GPI parasites consistent
with that reported previously [33]. This clearly shows that p230GPI parasites are able to
activate and emerge from the red blood cell as mature gametes. The p230gpi parasites
were generated in the background of Δp48/45 parasites and consequently P48/45 was
not found on the surface of either Δp48/45 or p230gpi gametes while WT gametes show
strong surface expression of P48/45 (Fig 3). WT gametes also showed a clear surface
expression of P230 through interaction with P48/45 [15,16,17,18,19]. In p230gpi
96 l Chapter 5
P230
P48/45
P47
p230gpi
Δp48/45
WT
Figure 3. Gamete Surface expression of P230. Suspension immuno-fluorescence assay of WT, Δp48/45 and
p230GPI F4 gametes. Live gamete in suspension were stained with a mix of P230 mAbs (63F2A2, 18F25) and
as controls P48/45 mAbs (85RF45.3 and 85RF45.5 ) and P47 mAbs (Pfs47.1) and visualized with secondary
fluorescently labeled antibody. P230 is not expressed on the surface of p230GPI gametes.
parasites lacking P48/45, we expected that fusion of the predicted P25 GPI anchor
sequence to P230 would localize P230GPI to the surface of gametes. However we failed
to detect any P230 expression on the surface of gametes of both p230gpi clones using
antibodies specific for two different epitopes of P230 (Fig 3).
The effect of GPI anchoring of P230 on transmission to mosquitoes was assessed by
membrane-feeding assays of p230gpi gametocytes to Anopheles mosquitoes. Infectivity
of p230gpi gametocytes remained at the same low levels of infectivity of Δp48/45
gametocytes, shown both by the lack of oocyst production and the low number of
infected mosquitoes compared to WT parasites (Table 1). There was no observable effect
of P230GPI on feeding success of gametocytes.
GPI anchoring of P230 in P. falciparum l 97
Discussion
GPI anchoring of P230 did not result in detectable expression of P230 on the surface of
Δp48/45 gametes and compared to Δp48/45 gametocytes no difference was observed
after feeding of p230gpi gametocytes to mosquitoes. These results did not allow further
studies into the function of P230 on the surface of parasites lacking P48/45.
The GPI assembly pathway including the responsible enzymes, make up a strongly
conserved mechanism for the targeting of proteins to the surface of cells (reviewed
in [34]) and subsequently even exogenously added GPI-anchored proteins have been
shown to localize to the plasma membrane and exert their full extra- and intracellular
interactive functions [35]. GPI anchoring has recently been studied in P. falciparum. In
this study P25 was confirmed as a GPI anchored protein by computer model GPI-HMM,
trained specifically for P. falciparum [36]. Furthermore, previous work showed that
fragments of P230 could successfully be expressed on the surface of COS cells using the
predicted GPI-anchor sequence of p25 to enhance the immunogenicity of a P230 based
DNA vaccine [26]. It is unclear why the GPI-anchor failed to direct the P230GPI protein
Table 1. Gametocyte production, oocyst development and transmission capacity of
p230gpi parasites.
Parasite
Gametocytes
(m/f ratio)
Exfla.
Oocyst
productionb
(range)
Infected/dissected
mosquitoes
% Infected
mosquitoes
WT
32
+
40
38/40
95
1/40
2.5
1/40
2.5
1/40
2.5
(0,42)
Δp48/45
29
(0-28)
+
(0,33)
p230gpiF4
28
(0-1)
+
(0,38)
p230gpiF9
38
(0,45)
0
0
(0-1)
+
0
(0-1)
Exflagellation centers counted in wet mounted preparations of stimulated gametocyte cultures at
400x magnification using a light microscope; + score = exflagellation centers were observed in each
field. bOocyst production is the median of the oocysts counted at day 7 after feeding of the mosquitoes. Values represent 3 independent experiments .
a
98 l Chapter 5
to the surface of P. falciparum gametes. The proper function of the GPI anchor may
have been influenced by protein folding, proteolytic cleavage or incompatibility of GPI
anchoring with the trafficking route of P230.
The approach taken here to use single cross over integration to modify the 3’terminus
of P230 with a GPI anchor ensures expression of a single form of P230 containing a
GPI anchor. An alternative approach would be to transiently over-express P230 with a
GPI anchor. This route of experimentation was not chosen because the size of the P230
protein is limiting for plasmid expression and also the endogenous protein would still be
expressed. Southern blot and PCR experiments clearly showed correct integration and
thus P230GPI was the only possible form of P230 expressed in gametocytes. In figure 2
normal expression and targeting of P230 to the parasitophorous vacuole of gametocytes
was shown, demonstrating that addition of a GPI anchor did not cause expression of an
aberrant form P230 as far as could be detected by IFA.
Protein folding of P230 may have precluded proper addition of the GPI anchor or
addition of the GPI anchor proceeded inefficiently causing only low amounts of P230GPI
protein to reside on the surface. Therefore we decided to feed P230GPI gametocytes
to mosquito even though P230 was not detectable on the surface of the gamete.
Unfortunately, addition of a GPI anchor to P230 was unable to alleviate the dramatic
effect that the disruption of p48/45 had on the fertilization or zygote development and
the transmission capacity of P. falciparum parasites [10].
Stage specific processing by proteolytic enzymes has been described for the N-terminus
of P230 [13,14] and as P230GPI was targeted to the parasitophorous vacuole of
gametocytes but was subsequently not found on the surface of gametes, potential
proteolytic cleavage of the C-terminus of P230 could have interfered with the function
of the GPI anchor.
Recently, P230 was found to mediate the binding of human red blood cells by exflagellating
male parasites and P230 was critical for oocyst production. Infectivity of P230 disrupted
parasites was comparable to that of Δp48/45 gametocytes and Δp48/45 exflagellating
centers also were less capable of binding red blood cells [20]. This phenotype in male
gametes of either Δp48/45 or Δp230 parasites could be exclusively caused by lack of P230
on the surface of gametes. The precise contribution of P48/45 on the surface of male
parasites in addition to retaining P230 on the surface of the parasite remains elusive as
GPI anchoring of P230 in P. falciparum l 99
well as the contribution of both these proteins on the surface of the female gamete.
Unfortunately using SIFA experiments for surface localization of proteins we are able
to look primarily at female gametes because following exflagellation P. falciparum male
gametes cannot be distinguished by conventional light microscopy. In our experiments
GPI anchoring of P230 did not result in detectable expression of P230 on the surface of
Δp48/45 gametes nor lead to increased sporogony compared to Δp48/45 gametocytes.
Advancing P. falciparum transfection methodologies may in future make it more
conceivable to transiently express large proteins such as different GPI anchored versions
of P230 possibly including tags to improving traceability of the modified proteins.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Jolanda Klaassen, Astrid Pauwelsen and Laura Pelser of
the Radboud University Nijmegen for mosquito dissections.
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glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor signal sequence enhances the immunogenicity of a DNA vaccine
encoding Plasmodium falciparum sexual-stage antigen, Pfs230. Vaccine 21: 3228-3235.
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selectable markers for transfection of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Proc Natl
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of Plasmodium falciparum: its variability with gametocyte numbers and concentration of antibody.
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chitinase markedly impairs parasite invasion of mosquito midgut. Infect Immun 69: 4048-4054.
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(2006) Pfs47, paralog of the male fertility factor Pfs48/45, is a female specific surface protein in
Plasmodium falciparum. Mol Biochem Parasitol 149: 216-222.
GPI anchoring of P230 in P. falciparum l 101
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of glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored membrane proteins of the human malaria parasite
Plasmodium falciparum. Mol Cell Proteomics 5: 1286-1299.
Chapter 6
Gene disruption of Plasmodium falciparum
p52 results in attenuation of malaria liver
stage development in cultured primary
human hepatocytes
Ben C.L. van Schaijka, Chris J. Janseb, Geert-Jan van Gemerta, Melissa R. van Dijkb,
Audrey Gegoc,d, Jean-Francois Franetichc,d, Marga van de Vegte-Bolmera, Samir
Yalaouic,d, Olivier Silvie c,d, Stephen L. Hoffmane, Andrew P. Watersb, Dominique
Mazierc,d,f, Robert W. Sauerweina, Shahid M. Khanb
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The
Netherlands
b
Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.
c
INSERM, U511, Paris, France d Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris6, UMR S511 Paris, France
e
Sanaria Inc. 9800 Medical Center Drive, Suite A209 Rockville, MD 20850, USA
f
AP-HP, Groupe hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Service Parasitologie-Mycologie, Paris, France
a
PloS ONE. 2008;3(10)e3549
104 l Chapter 6
Abstract
Difficulties with inducing sterile and long lasting protective immunity against malaria
with subunit vaccines has renewed interest in vaccinations with attenuated Plasmodium
parasites. Immunizations with sporozoites that are attenuated by radiation (RAS) can
induce strong protective immunity both in humans and rodent models of malaria.
Recently, in rodent parasites it has been shown that through the deletion of a single gene,
sporozoites can also become attenuated in liver stage development and, importantly,
immunization with these sporozoites results in immune responses identical to RAS. The
promise of vaccination using these genetically attenuated sporozoites (GAS) depends
on translating the results in rodent malaria models to human malaria. In this study, we
perform the first essential step in this transition by disrupting, p52, in P. falciparum an
ortholog of the rodent parasite gene, p36p, which we had previously shown can confer
long lasting protective immunity in mice. These P. falciparum P52 deficient sporozoites
demonstrate gliding motility, cell traversal and an invasion rate into primary human
hepatocytes in vitro that is comparable to wild type sporozoites. However, inside the
host hepatocyte development is arrested very soon after invasion. This study reveals,
for the first time, that disrupting the equivalent gene in both P. falciparum and rodent
malaria Plasmodium species generates parasites that become similarly arrested during
liver stage development and these results pave the way for further development of GAS
for human use.
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 105
Introduction
Plasmodium falciparum is the human parasite responsible for the vast majority of deaths
associated with malaria, estimated to be between 1-2 million per year [1]. Drug resistant
parasite strains, insecticide resistant mosquitoes and the lack of adequate global control
measures have meant that malaria continues to be a major international health issue [2].
Despite years of effort on testing a variety of sub-unit vaccines designed to a variety of
antigens expressed at various stages of the parasite life-cycle, success has been limited
[3–5]. The complexity of both the parasites life-cycle and host immune responses to
infection have contributed to the slow progress in the development of a vaccine that
can induce efficient and long lasting protective immune responses [6]. Recently, there
has been a renewed interest in the attenuated whole-organism vaccine strategy [7].
Initially, this approach has used radiation-attenuated sporozoites (RAS) to obtain sterile
immunity experimentally in both mice and humans [8,9]. Specifically, full protective
immunity against Plasmodium infection was achieved by immunisation only with live
attenuated sporozoites (the infectious form of the parasite injected by the mosquito)
that invade and then abort development inside hepatocytes in the liver of both rodent
models of malaria and in humans [10].
Recently, it has been shown that a comparable attenuation of liver stage development
can be achieved either by the targeted deletion of specific genes that are essential for
liver stage development generating genetically attenuated sporozoites (GAS; [11–15])
or by chemical attenuation of sporozoites (CAS) [16]. In rodent models, GAS and CAS
resemble both RAS and wild-type parasites in terms of invasion of host hepatocytes
but, like RAS, they abort and/or arrest development inside the hepatocyte. Importantly,
immunisation with both GAS and CAS also induce sterile immunity that is comparable
to RAS. Attenuation by genetic modification may have several advantages compared
to CAS and RAS in that it generates parasites with a defined attenuation and results
in homogeneous population of parasites. This, therefore, removes any issues with
the delivery of correct doses of either irradiation or drugs in order to obtain precisely
attenuated parasites that both invade hepatocytes and also become developmentally
arrested [17].
106 l Chapter 6
Recently, GAS have been produced in the rodent malaria parasites, P. berghei and P.
yoelii, by single gene deletion of a number of genes (uis3, uis4, sap1 and p36p) as well as
the simultaneous deletion of two genes (p52+p36 in P. yoelii; uis3+uis4 in P. berghei [11–
15,18,19]). Immunisation with sporozoites of all these resulting parasite lines induce,
to varying degrees, protection against re-infection with wild type parasites. Studies on
these parasites show that they are sufficient to confer protection in some cases with
doses as low as 1000-10000 sporozoites [18,20].
In our laboratory we have generated attenuated P. berghei sporozoites by deleting the
gene encoding p36p. This protein is a member of a small family of proteins that is conserved
in Plasmodium [21], which includes some important antigens which are putativecandidates for transmission blocking vaccines (i.e. P48/45, P230; [22–26]). Sporozoites,
deficient in expressing P36p resulted in aborted development in hepatocytes, prior to
parasite replication. Immunisation with Δpb36p sporozoites induces long lasting and
protective immune responses against challenge with wild-type sporozoites in rodents
[15] and confers a degree of cross-species protection against other rodent parasites [20].
It has also been shown in P. yoelii that the disruption of the ortholog of p36p and its
paralogous gene, p36, results in generation of attenuated sporozoites that can confer
protective immunity [18].
In order to translate the promising observations in rodent models of malaria to humans,
that GAS have the capacity to induce protective immune responses comparable to RAS,
it is first necessary to generate P. falciparum mutants that are also attenuated during
liver stage development. In this study, we therefore generated P. falciparum parasites
that were deficient in expressing P52 (PFD0215c), the equivalent of P. berghei P36p.
The analysis of sporozoite invasion of hepatocytes in vitro as well as development
within primary human hepatocytes with P. falciparum ∆p52 mutants demonstrates a
pattern of attenuation essentially identical to P. berghei mutants unable to express P36P.
Specifically, development aborts shortly after hepatocyte invasion. These findings open
up the exciting possibility that, as with the P. berghei Δp36p sporozoites, P. falciparum
mutants lacking this gene may also confer protective immunity in humans against
wild-type sporozoite infection.
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 107
Results
The P. falciparum p52 gene (PFD0215c) is an ortholog of
P. berghei p36p (PB000891.00.0) and is amenable to gene
disruption
In the P. berghei genome the two neighbouring genes p36 (PB000892.00.0) and p36p
(PB000891.00.0) are a paralogous pair of genes located on chromosome 10 and based
on sequence similarity (i.e. 46% amino acid sequence similarity). These genes belong to
a larger gene family constituting 10 members i.e. the 6-cys family [21]. The repertoire
of genes within this gene family is similarly expanded within all (currently sequenced)
genomes of Plasmodium with every member of the P. berghei gene family having a direct
ortholog in P. falciparum based both on sequence similarity and syntenic positioning of
genes [21]. Previously, it has been described that the expression of P. berghei 36p appears
to be exclusive to the sporozoite stage [27–29], which is supported by the presence of
P36p peptides only in the proteome of P. berghei sporozoites [30], detection of the
protein by Western analysis of proteins of salivary gland sporozoites (SGS) [31] and the
presence of transcripts in P. berghei SGS [32]. Further, this stage specific expression was
also observed for the orthologous protein in the closely related rodent malaria parasite,
P. yoelii, where both protein and transcripts are present in the SGS stage [33].
The ortholog of P. berghei p36p in P. falciparum is PFD0215c, referred to as p52 [29] and
(www.PlasmoDB.org), they share 39% amino acid sequence identity (and 58% similarity)
as well as the corresponding syntenic conservation (P. falciparum chromosome 4 and P.
berghei chromosome 10; [34]). Examination of the available P. falciparum proteomes
reveals that peptides corresponding to this protein are only detected in the SGS proteome
of Lasonder et al 2008 (i.e. 5 unique peptides) and also transcriptome analyses indicate
that expression only occurs in SGS [35].
To investigate if a P. falciparum mutant lacking the p52 gene would also manifest the
same attenuated phenotype during development in the liver, as observed with P. berghei
mutants lacking p36p, two independent transfections were performed to disrupt p52 in
P. falciparum.
108 l Chapter 6
A
hrp-3 tg.dhfr hrp-2
190 191 BstNI
SnaBI 3.3kb
2.2kb
BstNI
BstNI pf36
p52
1624 1625 1676
1638
hrp-3 tg.dhfr hrp-2
p52
Insertion
construct
p52
L430
1638
SnaBI
BstNI
1.3kb
B
BstNI
p52
4.2kb
Wild-type locus
Disrupted locus
BstNI
C
4.2kb
Wt
3.3kb
Tg.DHFR
2.2kb
Integration
Asexual
Wt
1.3kb
Integration
Sporozoites
Figure 1. Generation of P. falciparum parasites lacking expression of P52 (A) Illustration of the DNA
construct (m144) used for the targeted gene disruption of p52 and the p52-genomic locus before and
after integration. Shown are the p52 gene and target sequence (amplified using 1624 & 1625), the paralog
of p52, p36, and the T. gondii dhfr/ts selection cassette. In addition, primer pairs and restriction sites for
diagnostic PCR and Southern analysis are shown (see B and C). hrp – histidine rich protein (B) Southern
analysis of BstNI/SnaBI digested genomic DNA of Wt and Δp52 demonstrates correct disruption of p52.
DNA was hybridized with a p52 specific probe detecting a 3.3 kb fragment in Wt, a 2.2kb fragment for
intact plasmid and the expected fragments of 1.3kb and a 4.2kb band (see A) in the two Δp52 clones
(Δp52-1 and Δp52 -2). (C) PCR analysis of genomic DNA of Wt and Δp52 clones and the plasmid DNA
(construct) demonstrates correct disruption of p52. Genomic DNA from Wt and Δp52 asexual parasites and
sporozoites was used as template for the PCR reactions. The Wt specific PCR was performed using primers
1638 and 1676 amplifying a 2.1 kb fragment. PCR primer pairs 1638 and L430, specific for integration of
the DNA construct (see A) amplify a 2.0 kb fragment. Primer pairs 190 and 191 amplifying a 1.8kb fragment
from T. gondii dhfr/ts were used as a control.
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 109
The construct contained the Toxoplasma gondii DHFR selection cassette and a 1020
base pair internal fragment of the p52 coding sequence that is used as target sequence
for integration of the construct into the P. falciparum p52 locus by single cross-over
integration (see Figure 1A for details/schematic representation of the construct and
the integration event). Blood stage parasites of the NF54 strain of P. falciparum were
transfected as previously described [36] and pyrimethamine resistant parasites were
selected by standard methods for drug-selection of transformed P. falciparum parasites.
Cloned lines of the resistant parasite populations were obtained for both experiments
(i.e. clone ∆p52-1 and ∆p52-2) by the method of limiting dilution. Correct integration
of the construct and disruption of the p52 locus was demonstrated for one clone of
each line by diagnostic PCR and Southern analysis of restricted DNA (Figure 1B&C). Since
we have used a construct designed for single cross-over integration, reversion of the
disrupted locus to wild type can occur at low frequency in the parasite population as
has been reported for P. berghei TRAP mutants [37]. It is possible that such reversion
events can be detected by sensitive PCR analysis resulting in low amounts of wild type
PCR fragments (Figure 1C).
The ∆p52 parasites have comparable development to
wild-type parasites during blood stage growth, in culture,
and in the mosquito.
During the cloning procedure of the mutant parasites and subsequent in vitro cultivation
of the asexual blood stages, the growth and multiplication characteristics of the two
mutant clones, ∆p52-1 and ∆p52-2, were comparable to wild type parasites of the parent
line NF54 (data not shown).
Gametocyte production of the mutant parasites was analysed in blood stage cultures
that were optimised for gametocytogenesis [38]. Gametocyte production of the
mutant parasites ranged between 14 and 87 gametocytes/1000 erythrocytes which is
comparable to wild type gametocyte production (Table 1) and gametocytes were able
to develop in morphologically mature (stage V) parasites with a similar morphology
to wild type parasites [39]. Male gametocytes were functionally mature as shown by
exflagellation (formation of gametes) in vitro (Table 1) and formed the characteristic
exflagellation centres after induction of gametogenesis.
110 l Chapter 6
Table 1. Gametocyte, oocyst and sporozoite development of Δp52 parasites
Parasite
Gametocyte no. Exfl.a
Per 1000 RBC
(range)
Oocyst produc- Infected/distionb
sected
(IQR)
mosquitoes
% Infected
mosquitoes
Mean no. of
sporozoites per
mosquito
(std)
Wt
27
+
22
36/40
90
55 633
∆p52-1
27
+
13
35/40
88
(12-50)
(6/39)
(14-36)
(22.580)
(4/26)
44 632
(9.953)
∆p52-2
38
+
23
37/40
93
76 746
(12-87)
(5/51)
(30.339)
a
Exflagellation (Exfl) of male gametocytes was determined in small samples from the cultures by counting
exflagellation centres under the light-microscope in 25 homogeneous fields of rbc at a 40x magnification. A
mean of 2-10 per field is scored as +; >10 as ++ and less then 2 as +/-. b Oocyst production is the median of
the oocysts counted at day 7 after mosquito feeding and IQR is the inter quartile range. No significant difference exist between mutant and wild-type parasites (Wilcoxin rank-sum test; p= 0.13 for Δp52-1 and p=0.5
for Δp52-2).
Parasite development in the mosquito was analysed by feeding female A. stephensi
mosquitoes using standard membrane feeding of cultured gametocytes [38] and
subsequent monitoring of oocyst and sporozoite production. Counting of oocysts at
day 7 showed that the mutant lines produced infections in 88-93% of the mosquitoes
with oocyst numbers ranging from 4-52 per mosquito which is comparable to wild type
mosquito infection (Table 1). Also the sporozoite production with a mean number per
mosquito of 44.632 and 76.764 for ∆p52-1 and ∆p52-2 respectively, was also similar to
wild type (Table 1).
Sporozoites of ∆p52 parasites have gliding motility and a
traversal capacity comparable to wild-type sporozoites
The ability of mutant sporozoites to move by gliding motility is essential for invasion
and was assessed by their ability to ‘glide’ on glass slides [40]. The motility of ∆p52-1,
∆p52-2 and NF54 (Wt) parasites was visualised by counterstaining the trails left by the
sporozoites with anti-PfCSP1 antibodies and quantifying the amount of sporozoites out
of 100 sporozoites that left trails. This analysis showed that sporozoites of both mutant-
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 111
lines are able to glide and produce the repeating circles characteristic of correct gliding
(Figure 2A) and, moreover, gliding motility is comparable to wild type parasites (Figure
2B).
It has been shown that Plasmodium sporozoites migrate to the liver and then traverse/
transmigrate through several hepatocytes before they establish an infection in a
hepatocyte residing inside a parasitophorous vacuole [41,42]. To determine if the lack
of P52 expression has an effect on sporozoites cell traversal, we analysed hepatocyte
traversal in vitro using the Dextran incorporation FACS assay as previously described
[43]. Only wounded cells incorporate Dextran and by quantifying these cells by FACS,
A
B
Gliding motility
0 circles
Wt +CyD
% of sporozoites
100
≥ 1circles
50
∆p
52
-2
∆p
52
-1
W
t+
cy
W
to
D
t
0
Δp52-1
C
Traversal
Δp52-2
% Traversed cells
6
4
2
∆p
52
-2
∆p
52
-1
t
W
D
ex
0
Figure 2. Gliding Motility and Traversal Capacity of Wt and Δp52 sporozoites (A) Representative
immunofluorescence staining with anti-PfCSP antibodies of the trails produced by Wt and mutant
sporozoites deficient in P52 expression (Δp52-1 and Δp52-2) as well as Wt sporozoites, treated with
cytochalasin D, an inhibitor of sporozoite motility. Characteristic circles of gliding motility are present in
Wt and mutant lines, and absent in Wt sporozoites that have been treated with cytochalasin D. (B) Gliding
motility of P. falciparum Wt (cytochalasin D treated and untreated) and mutant sporozoites as assessed by
the capacity to produce the characteristic circles (see A). (C) Cell traversal ability of P. falciparum Wt and
mutant sporozoites as determined by FACS counting of Dextran positive hepG2 cells. Dex: hepatocytes
cultured in the presence of Dextran but without the addition of sporozoites.
112 l Chapter 6
we were able to demonstrate that sporozoites of both mutant lines have a cell traversal
rate in cultured hepatoma cells (hepG2) that is comparable to that of wild type parasites.
On average ∆p52-1 migrated through 4.2% of cells, ∆p52-2 through 2.9% of cells and
wild-type through 2.9% hepatocytes as compared to the Dextran only control where
only 0.38% cells were Dextran positive (Figure 2C).
The ∆p52 parasites are arrested early during hepatocyte
development in cultured primary human hepatocyte cells
The ability of the ∆p52-1 and ∆p52-2 parasites to invade and develop inside hepatocytes
was investigated using primary human hepatocytes which had been isolated directly from
patient material [44]. Freshly isolated sporozoites, collected in culture medium were added
to these hepatocytes that were cultured in 24 well culture plates (5X104 sporozoites/
well) at 37°C as previously described [44]. To examine the ability of the sporozoites to
invade host cells, the infected primary human hepatocytes were fixed and examined 3
hours after incubation with sporozoites. In order to distinguish between extracellular and
intracellular sporozoites, a double staining immuno-fluorescence protocol was followed
[45]. Using alternatively (red and green fluorescent) conjugated anti-PFCS antibodies we
stained sporozoites before and after hepatocyte permeabilisation (with 1% Triton X100).
Therefore extracellular sporozoites were doubly fluorescently stained (i.e. red and green
fluorescence) whereas intracellular sporozoites were only exposed to antibodies after
triton X-100 treatment and were only singly fluorescently stained (i.e. green fluorescence)
as can be seen in Figure 3A. In calculating the percentage of intracellular sporozoites,
we found no difference in invasion of primary human hepatocytes between wild-type
parasites and mutant parasites lacking P52 (Figure 3B). To examine the intracellular
parasite development to the replicating schizont stage, we analysed the parasites inside
the hepatocytes after 3 days and 5 days after the addition of sporozoites. Cultures of
primary human hepatocytes at either day 3 or 5 after sporozoite addition were fixed in
methanol and stained using an anti-HSP70 mouse serum. Additional staining of the host
and parasite DNA with DAPI, shows that wild type parasites are clearly in the process
of schizogony as shown by the multiple DAPI positive nuclei. Counting of the schizonts
in the culture wells revealed that at day 3 an average of 1054 liver schizonts/well are
present in the cultures of the wild type parasites, however, for infections initiated with
both Δp52 mutant lines there is a drastic reduction in the number of schizonts with
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 113
EEF Day 3
A
C
3 days p.i.
1500
EEFs
1000
500
Wt
W
3hrs p.i.
60
Δp52-1 Δp52-2
EEF Day 5
5 days p.i.
600
D
40
EEFs
400
20
∆p
52
-2
Δp52-1 Δp52-2
∆p
52
-1
Wt
t
0
W
W
Δp52-1 Δp52-2
∆p
52
-2
Wt
∆p
52
-1
0
200
t
B
% Intracellular sporozoites
Invasion (3hrs p.i.)
∆p
52
-2
0
∆p
52
-1
EX
t
IN
Figure 3. Invasion capacity of Wt and Δp52 sporozoites in primary human hepatocytes in vitro (A) Intra
(In) and extracellular (Ex) sporozoites 3hrs after incubation of sporozoites with primary human hepatocytes
in culture. Sporozoites were first stained with anti-PfCSP antibodies (red). Then cells were permeabilised
and sporozoites were stained with anti-PfCSP antibodies (green). Consequently, extracellular sporozoites
will stain red AND green and intracellular sporozoites will stain only green. Nuclei of the hepatocytes (white
arrow heads) were stained with DAPI (B) The percentage of intracellular/invaded sporozoites (Wt and
Δp52 mutant lines) in primary human hepatocyte 3 hours after sporozoite incubation, as determined in
the double anti-CSP staining immuno-fluorescence assay (see A). (C) The number of schizonts detected by
IFA using anti-HSP70 antibodies and the nuclear dye DAPI formed 3 days after incubation with either Wt or
Δp52 mutant sporozoites.(D) The number of schizonts detected by IFA using anti-HSP70 antibodies and the
nuclear dye DAPI formed 5 days after incubation with either Wt or Δp52 mutant sporozoites
an average of only 1.7 schizonts per well (Figure 3C). At day 5 the size of the wild type
schizonts and the number of nuclei per schizont have increased significantly but the
total number of infected cells in wild type cultures however decreased (i.e. average of
475 parasites/well) which is a well known phenomenon in in vitro cultures of hepatic
[46]stages; where the number of infected hepatocytes decrease during the process of
maturation (Figure 3D). Again, at day 5 the average number of liver schizonts formed in
the infection initiated with Δp52 mutants is drastically reduced to 1.2 liver schizonts per
well. Interestingly, the very few liver schizonts observed with the Δp52 mutants in day 3
and day 5 cultures have wild-type morphology with regard to both the size and number
of DAPI positive nuclei. We interpret the presence of these schizonts as the result of a
114 l Chapter 6
low contamination of wild type parasites that are the consequence of reversion events in
the mutant parasite genome, resulting in the restoration of the wild-type p52 locus (see
Discussion for further details).
To examine the loss and aborted growth of parasites lacking P52 during development
in the hepatocytes in more detail, cultures were examined at 20 hours post-infection
by the double staining method used to investigate invasion (see above). At 20 hours
intracellular wild-type parasites were observed to be developing inside the hepatocytes;
characteristic transformation of the long slender sporozoite forms into the round
trophozoites can be observed and many of these parasites are in the process of ‘rounding
up’ at one end (Figure 4A). In contrast, all the visible intracellular ∆p52 parasites appear
morphologically indistinguishable from Wt parasites at 3 hours post invasion (i.e. they
still maintain a sporozoite like appearance; Figure 4A). These observations show that
parasites are aborted before or during the transformation of the sporozoite into the
A
DAPI
α-PfCS*
α-PfCS**
Wt
Wt
Wt
Δp52
Δp52
Δp52
Δp52
Δp52
Δp52
DAPI
B
α-HSP70
Wt
Wt
Δp52
Δp52
Wt
Wt
Δp52
Δp52
Day 3
Day 5
20 hrs
Figure 4. Development of Wt and Δp52
parasites in primary human hepatocytes (A)
Parasites at 20 hours. Extracellular parasites
are visualised by staining with anti-PfCSP
antibodies (secondary conjugated with
ALEXA594, i.e. red fluorescence) before
permeabilisation (α-PfCS*) and all parasites
are visualised by staining with anti-PfCSP
antibodies (secondary conjugated with
ALEXA488 i.e. green fluorescence) after
permeabilisation (α-PfCS**). The nuclei of
the host cells are stained with DAPI (blue).
(B) Parasites at day 3 or day 5. Nuclei of
both the host cell and the merozoites inside
the developing schizont are visible by DAPI
staining (blue). Parasites are identified by
anti-HSP70 staining (α-HSP70; secondary
antibody conjugated with ALEXA488;
green). Parasites lacking P52 expression
fail to develop into schizonts and the only
visible forms of the parasite are small
‘rounded’, possibly degenerate and/or
extracellular, forms. Scale bars in the DAPI
panels represent a size of 10µM
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 115
growing trophozoite stage. Further, examination of mutant parasites at either day 3
or day 5 revealed that compared to the clear liver schizont development of wild-type
parasites there were very few anti-HSP70 positive parasites and those that were visible
appeared to very small and round forms, which were also equally present in cultures
incubated with wild-type sporozoites, possibly extracellular degraded parasites that are
known to be able to persist for several days in vitro culture (Figure 4B). These results
indicate that the Δp52 mutants have wild-type development up until post-hepatocyte
invasion, where the mutant parasites clearly arrest soon after invasion. The intracellular
parasites deficient in P52 expression maintain their slender morphology characteristics
of extracellular sporozoites, whereas, wild-type parasites begin to transform into the
rounded trophozoite stage by 20 hours post invasion.
Discussion
The protein P52 belongs to the small 6-Cys family of conserved cysteine-rich proteins,
many of which are membrane-anchored [21]. Several of these proteins play an important
role in fertility and recognition of gametes such as P48/45, P47 and P230 [23–25].
These gamete surface proteins are considered to be important candidate antigens in
the development of a transmission blocking vaccine. Characterization of these proteins
using comparable reverse genetic technologies in rodent models of malaria and in P.
falciparum have revealed that these proteins have similar functions in both human and
rodent malaria [25,26,47] and van Dijk unpublished observations).
In this study we show that another member of the 6-cys family, P52, has a comparable
role in both human and rodent malaria. Specifically, P52 in P. falciparum and its ortholog
P36P in P. berghei function in the establishment of infection within a hepatocyte. We have
previously shown that development of P. berghei parasites lacking P36P is aborted early
after sporozoite invasion of the hepatocyte, whereas gliding motility and the capacity of
these sporozoites to traverse and invade hepatocytes is not affected. We found evidence
that development was aborted during or just after the formation of the parasitophorous
vacuole and that the ∆p36p parasites had lost the capacity to prevent the host cell to
undergo apoptosis [15]. Moreover, such early aborted development also occurred in the
closely related rodent parasite P. yoelii when parasites lacked this protein [18].
116 l Chapter 6
In this paper we present data to demonstrate that P52 functions in P. falciparum at
the same stage of development (i.e. intra-hepatocytic development) as its P. berghei
ortholog. Parasites lacking P52 are not affected in their erythrocytic development
(asexual or sexual) or in maturation in the mosquito. The production of sporozoites within
the oocyst is not affected and the salivary glands of infected A. stephensi mosquitoes
contain high numbers of salivary gland sporozoites (SGS) for parasites deficient in P52.
This is not unexpected since large scale proteome and transcriptome analyses indicate
that expression of P52 is absent in all these stages except for SGS [33,48]. This has been
further confirmed as P52 has been detected specifically in the proteome of sporozoites
collected from the salivary glands and not the sporozoites from the oocyst (Lasonder et
al., 2008 in press PLoS Pathogens).
The presence of proteins specific to the SGS suggests a role in sporozoite biology in the
vertebrate host, anywhere along its journey to the hepatocyte, invasion of and initial
intracellular remodelling of the host cell interior. For example, the SPECT1, SPECT2, TRAP
and CelTOS are proteins that appear to be either exclusively present or predominantly
expressed in sporozoites of the salivary gland and are present in preparation for injection
into the host. These proteins have been shown to play a role in either the gliding motility
of sporozoites or in cell traversal [37,49,50].
The sporozoites that lack P52, however, have normal gliding motility, cell traversal
capacity and the ability to invade hepatocytes, which was also observed in rodent malaria
parasites lacking the P36p ortholog [15,18]. As with the rodent malaria parasite p36p
deletion mutants, development of the P. falciparum parasites that lack P52, development
is aborted rapidly after invasion of the hepatocyte. In the Δp36p P. berghei parasites
evidence was presented that the invaded parasites abort development during or just
after formation of the parasitophorous vacuole. In the P. falciparum mutant parasites we
have not observed indications of the transformation of the long slender sporozoites into
the round trophozoite stage.
Perhaps not unexpectedly, we found a few parasites in the cultures of the mutant lines
that were able to develop into maturing schizonts, morphologically identical to wild type
schizonts. It is well known that ‘reversion-events’ can occur in the genome of mutant
parasites that have been transformed with constructs that integrate by single-cross-over
recombination. Such reversion events can result in removal of the integrated construct
including the drug selectable marker, resulting in low levels of contamination of mutant
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 117
parasite populations with wild type parasites [51]. After the feeding mosquitoes with
blood containing Δp52 gametocytes, no drug-pressure can be applied to kill ‘revertantparasites’ and as these mutant parasites actively multiply within the oocysts, sporozoites
can be produced which restore the wild type genotype. Such ‘wild type’ parasites are
the most likely explanation for the presence of the very few schizonts in hepatocytes
cultured with mutant parasites. However, it remains possible that a low proportion
of the mutant parasites, lacking P52 expression, are able to develop into the schizont
stage. In P. berghei it has been shown that by infection of mice with >100000 mutant
sporozoites intravenously ‘break-through’ parasites are observed that give rise to
blood stage infection, despite irreversible disruption of the p36p gene by double crossover recombination. Interestingly, in P. yoelii it has been shown that disruption of the
orthologous gene p36p and its paralog p36 within the same parasite, result in complete
abortion of development without breakthrough parasites [18]. In P. falciparum the gene
p52 is in exactly the same genomic context as the rodent malaria p36/p36p genes and has
its paralogous gene, pf36 (PFD0210c) also immediately downstream [34]. It is therefore
possible to disrupt both genes using a single DNA construct, as has been shown for other
paralogous genes in rodent malaria [18,52] and for adjacent genes encoding aspartatic
proteases in P. falciparum [53,54].
In infections initiated with P. falciparum deficient in P52 we find a greater than 99%
reduction (and possibly complete absence) of EEF development very soon after sporozoite
invasion. It would appear that this degree and stage of attenuation is essentially the
same as described for rodent malaria parasites lacking its ortholog, p36p.
Consequently, P52 is the first protein in P. falciparum demonstrated to have an essential
role at any stage of development after sporozoite invasion of the hepatocyte. Early
abortion of liver stage development has also been shown for sporozoites that have been
attenuated by γ-radiation (RAS). Such sporozoites are able to invade the hepatocyte but
are unable to transform into the schizont stage. Invasion and establishment of an infection
in the liver appears to be essential for inducing protective immune responses [10] and
over-irradiated sporozoites, which are unable to initiate an infection in hepatocytes, do
not induce protective immunity [55,56]. Thus the correct dose of radiation is essential
for inducing protective immune responses. We, and others, have shown that attenuated
parasites generated by genetic modification (GAS) can also induce identical protective
immune responses in rodent models of malaria. Genetic modification technology permits
the creation of very specific and targeted alterations (deletions) in the Plasmodium
118 l Chapter 6
genome as compared to the non-specific genomic or protein alterations induced by
either radiation or chemical approaches. Genetic modification can therefore result in
the reproducible production of homogeneous populations of parasites with a clearly
defined genotype and phenotype and consequently these may have clear advantages in
the testing of ‘whole parasite vaccine’ approach over RAS and CAS.
This study, showing that P. falciparum parasites can be attenuated by disrupting
a single gene is a first, but essential, step in the development of a vaccine based on
attenuated parasites. Further optimization of such parasites will likely use double crossover recombination to avoid reversion to a ‘wild-type’ genotype; disruption of multiple
genes each of which may generate arrested and/or protective parasite and thereby
creating a parasite which contains successive obstacles for the restoration of parasite
growth; and removal of foreign DNA from the transgenic parasite genome which can
ease the transition of genetically modified organisms for human use. These are the next
steps that must be accomplished before it would be possible to move such potentially
protective parasites into clinical trials to test the safety, immunogenicity and potency of
these parasites in immune response and re-challenge studies in humans.
Materials and Methods
Parasites
P. falciparum parasites line NF54 (wild-type; Wt) and Δpf52 (see below) blood stages were cultured
in a semi automated culture system using standard in vitro culture conditions for P. falciparum
and induction of gametocyte production in these cultures was performed as previously described
[57–59].
Generation of Δp52 parasites
The p52 gene (PFD0215c) of P. falciparum was disrupted with the insertion plasmid mI44,
a derivative of the previously described pDT.Tg23 plasmid [60]. The construct mI44 was
generated by cloning a 1020bp internal fragment of the p52 coding sequence, obtained by
PCR amplification using primers 1624 (5’-cgcggatccTGTAGCAATGTGATTCAAGATG) and 1625
(5’-ggactagtTGATTGTTATTATGATGTTCCTC), into the BamHI and SpeI restriction sites of the pDT.
Tg23 plasmid. For details of the location of primers and sizes of amplified products see Figure 1A.
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 119
Transfection of wild type blood-stage parasites of line NF54 was performed as described [36],
using a BTX electroporation system. Transfected parasites were cultured using the semi automated
culture system and transformed, drug-resistant Δp52 parasites were selected by treatment of the
cultures with pyrimethamine as described [60].
Genotype analysis of transformed parasites was performed by diagnostic PCR and Southern blot
analysis. Genomic DNA of Wt or transfected parasites (blood stages or sporozoite) was isolated
[61] and analyzed by PCR using primer pair 1638 (5’-CATGCCATGGTTTGAATAAGTTTTACAACCTGC)
and L430 (5’-GGATAACAATTTCACACAGGA) for correct integration of mI44 in the pf52 locus and for
the presence of Wt using primer pair 1638 and 1676 (5’- GGACTAGTTTTGCCAGAATGTTCTTGTTCG),
both annealing outside the target region used for integration. Primer pairs 190
(5’-CGGGATCCATGCATAAACCGGTGTGTC) and 191 (5’-CGGGATCCAAGCTTCTGTATTTCCGC) were
used as a control to detect the presence of either integrated or episomal plasmid. PCR reactions
were performed using the conditions as described [62]. For Southern blot analysis, genomic DNA
was digested with BstNI and SnaBI, size fractionated on a 1% agarose gel and transferred to a
Hybond-N membrane (Amersham) by gravitational flow [61]. The blot was pre-hybridized in Church
buffer [63] followed by hybridization to a pf52 specific probe. This probe, a PCR fragment of the
coding region of p52, obtained with the primer pair 1624 and 1625 (see above for the sequence
of these primers), was labelled using the High Prime DNA labelling kit (Roche) and purified with
Micro Biospin columns (Biorad).
Cloning of transfected parasites was performed by the method of limiting dilution [64] in 96 well
plates. Parasites of the positive wells were transferred to the semi-automated culture system for
further genotype and phenotype analysis of the cloned parasites
Analysis of gametocyte production
Gametocyte production was established in cultures at day 13-15 after start of the ‘gametocyte
cultures’ by counting the number of mature (stage V) gametocytes in Giemsa stained thin blood
films [59]. Exflagellation of male gametocytes was determined in small samples from the cultures
by stimulating the gametocytes in FCS pH 8.0 at room temperature for 10 minutes. Exflagellation
centres were counted under the light-microscope in 5 homogeneous fields of red blood cells at a
40X magnification.
Analysis of mosquito stage development
14-day-old cultures of Wild-type (Wt; NF54) or Δp52 gametocytes were fed to Anopheles stephensi
mosquitoes using the standard method of membrane feeding [38]. On day 7 after feeding the
midguts of 40 mosquitoes were dissected and the number of oocyst counted as described [38,65].
Statistical analysis of oocyst production (oocyst numbers) was performed with the non-parametric
Wilcoxin rank-sum test. On day 14-16 after infection, the salivary glands of the mosquitoes
were collected by hand-dissection. These salivary glands were collected in William’s E medium
supplemented with 10% FCS, 2% penicillin-streptomycin, 1% sodium-pyruvate, 1% L-glutamine,
120 l Chapter 6
1% insulin-transferin-selenium (Gibco) and 10-7M dexamethasone (Sigma) and homogenized in a
home made glass grinder. The free sporozoites were counted in a Bürker-Türk counting chamber
using phase-contrast microscopy and the number of sporozoites per salivary gland calculated.
Analysis of gliding motility of sporozoites
Lab-Tec 8-chamber slides (Nalge Nunc) were coated with 25µg/ml 3SP2 antibody specific for the
P. falciparum circumsporozoite protein (CSP) for 15 hours [40]. Sporozoites were obtained from
dissection of infected Anopheles stephensi mosquito salivary glands. After grinding, the suspension
is filtered through a 40µm cell strainer (Falcon) to remove mosquito debris, and centrifuged at
15500 g for 3 min at 4°C. Sporozoites are then recovered in the pellet and resuspended in complete
culture medium (see composition below). Sporozoites (5 x104) were directly transferred to the
8-chamber slides and incubated at 37°C for 2 hours. Controls consisted in wild type sporozoites
in addition a negative control consisting in WT immobilized sporozoites treated with 10µm of
cytochalasin D was also performed. Briefly, cytochalasin D (Sigma) was diluted from a 500µM stock
in Me2SO to a 10µm final concentration with sporozoites. Sporozoites were then transferred to the
8-chamber slides and incubated at 37°C for 2 hours in the presence of cytochalsin D. Sporozoites
were fixed with 4% PFA and after washing with PBS, the sporozoites and the trails (‘gliding circles’)
were stained with a FITC-3SP2 conjugated antibody. Slides were mounted with Vectashield and
counting of the ‘gliding circles’ was performed using a DMI4000B Leica fluorescence microscope
at 400X magnification. Photographs of the gliding circles were obtained with the Leica SP2 AOBS
confocal microscope at the “Plate-forme d’Imagerie Cellulaire de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris”.
Cultures of primary human hepatocytes
Primary human hepatocytes were isolated from healthy parts of human liver fragments, collected
during unrelated surgery in agreement with French national ethical regulations, as described .
Cells were seeded in 96 well plates or 8-chamber Lab-Tec slides (Nalge Nunc) coated with rat tail
collagen I (Becton Dickinson, Le Pont de Claix, France) at a density of 8x104 or 21x104 cells per
well respectively. These cells were cultured at 37°C in 5% CO2 in complete William’s E culture
medium supplemented with 10% FCS, 2% penicillin-streptomycin, 1% sodium-pyruvate, 1%
L-glutamine and 1% insulin-transferin-selenium (reagents for cell culture Gibco, Invitrogen) and
10-7M dexamethasone (Sigma, Saint Quentin Fallavier, France).
Sporozoite cell traversal assay[66]
Hepatocyte traversal was analysed by the Dextran incorporation FACS assay [43]. HepG2-A16 (7
x104 cells/well) cells were seeded in 48 well plates. After 24 hours, they were incubated with 105
sporozoites for 2 hours in the presence of rhodamine-dextran lysine fixable (10000MW Molecular
probes, Invitrogen). After washing the cells were trypsinized, fixed with 1% formaldehyde and
analyzed by FACS using a Beckman Coulter Epics xl flow cytometer. 5000 cells were counted/
analysed and dextran-positive cells were detected using filter FL2 for rhodamine [43]
Plasmodium falciparum ∆p52 GAS l 121
Immuno-fluorescence analysis of parasite development in hepatocytes
To analyse parasite development in primary human hepatocytes, 5 x104 extracted sporozoites
were added to primary human hepatocyte cultures, 3 hours after the addition of sporozoites, the
cultures were washed with media to remove mosquito salivary gland material as well as un-invaded
and un-attached sporozoites, complete media was added and cultures were incubated overnight
at 37°C. The day after, the culture medium was replaced and again the 3rd day post infection for
cell cultures fixed at day 5 post infection [67]. Cultures with were fixed at different time points
after adding the sporozoites with cold methanol and developing liver schizonts were stained
with Plasmodium Heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) [68] followed by goat anti-mouse ALEXA-488
(Molecular probes) and nuclei were stained with 1µg/ml diamidino-phenylindole (DAPI). For the
invasion assays [45], cultures were first fixed with 4% para-formaldehyde (PFA) and extracellular
(non-invaded) parasites were stained with mAbs against CSP followed by anti-mouse-ALEXA594
(i.e. red fluorescence; Molecular probes). In order to then distinguish intracellular parasites the
hepatocytes were permeabilised with 1% Triton-X-100 in PBS for 4 min; allowing parasites to be
stained with mAbs against CSP and these were then identified using anti-mouse-ALEXA488 (i.e.
green fluorescence; Molecular probes) and nuclei were stained with 1µg/ml DAPI. Analysis and
counting of stained intracellular and extracellular parasites were performed using a DMI4000B
Leica fluorescence microscope and the Olympus FluoView FV1000 confocal microscope.
Acknowledgements
The authors would like to thank Jolanda Klaassen, Astrid Pauwelsen, Laura Pelser and
Jaqueline Kuhnen (RUNMC, Nijmegen) for their help with the dissections of mosquitoes
and Maaike van Dooren (LUMC, Leiden) for generation of DNA constructs.
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Chapter 7
Assessing the adequacy of attenuation
of genetically modified malaria parasite
vaccine candidates
Takeshi Annouraa, 1, Ivo H.J. Ploemenb, 1, Ben C.L. van Schaijkb, 1, Mohammed
Sajida, Martijn W. Vosb, Geert-Jan van Gemertb, Severine Chevalley-Maurela,
Blandine M.D. Franke-Fayarda, Cornelus C. Hermsenb, Audrey Gegoc, d, JeanFrancois Franetichc, d, Dominique Mazierc, d, e, Stephen L. Hoffmanf, Chris J. Jansea,
Robert W. Sauerweinb, Shahid M. Khana
1
These authors contributed equally to this study.
Leiden Malaria Research Group, Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden,
Netherlands
b
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands
c
INSERM, U511, Paris, France d Université Pierre et Marie Curie-Paris 6, UMR S511 Paris, France
e
AP-HP, Groupe hospitalier Pitié-Salpêtrière, Service Parasitologie-Mycologie, Paris, France
f
Sanaria Inc. 9800 Medical Center Drive, Suite A209 Rockville, MD, USA.
a
Vaccine 30 (16) 2012 Pages 2662–2670
126 l Chapter 7
Abstract
The critical first step in the clinical development of a malaria vaccine, based on liveattenuated Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites, is the guarantee of complete arrest in
the liver. We report on an approach for assessing adequacy of attenuation of genetically
attenuated sporozoites in vivo using the Plasmodium berghei model of malaria and
P. falciparum sporozoites cultured in primary human hepatocytes. We show that two
genetically attenuated sporozoite vaccine candidates, Δp52+p36 and Δfabb/f, are not
adequately attenuated. Sporozoites infection of mice with both P. berghei candidates
can result in blood infections. We also provide evidence that P. falciparum sporozoites
of the leading vaccine candidate that is similarly attenuated through the deletion
of the genes encoding the proteins P52 and P36, can develop into replicating liver
stages. Therefore, we propose a minimal set of screening criteria to assess adequacy
of sporozoite attenuation necessary before advancing into further clinical development
and studies in humans.
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 127
Introduction
Immunization with live sporozoites that are attenuated by radiation (IrrSpz) induces strong
protective immunity both in rodent models of malaria and in humans in experimental
clinical studies [1;2]. Recently, the interest in a whole-organism vaccine consisting of live
attenuated parasites has been renewed as efforts using recombinant subunit vaccines
have still been unable to demonstrate sustained, high level sterile immunity [3-6]. In
rodent models of malaria it has been shown that attenuation of sporozoites can also be
achieved by reverse-genetic methodologies (genetically attenuated parasites, GAP; [7-9])
or by chemical treatment (chemically attenuated parasites; CAS [10;11]). Importantly,
immunization of mice with GAP results in protective immune responses that are similar
to those induced by IrrSpz, specifically cell mediated responses, critically involving CD8+
T-cells, which provide a long lasting and sterile protection against infection [12-14]. The
use of GAP sporozoites that were shown to be safe (no breakthrough infections) and
protective as a whole-organism vaccine could have several advantages over IrrSpz and
CAS as they would be a homogeneous population of parasites with the potential for
a defined attenuation phenotype. This could remove issues related to the delivery of
correct doses of either irradiation or drugs in order to ensure sufficient attenuation
without killing the parasites. The conceptual basis of vaccines consisting of IrrSpz or GAP
is that after inoculation, sporozoites invade but only partially develop in the liver, as it has
been shown that only sporozoites that are able to invade hepatocytes induce protective
immune responses [15-17]. This sporozoite growth arrest in the liver needs to be
complete, as the appearance of ‘breakthrough’ parasites in the bloodstream can lead to
clinical disease and death [18]. As P. falciparum only efficiently infects humans, adequacy
of attenuation of P. falciparum sporozoites cannot be assessed in vivo prior to initiating
clinical trials. The murine malaria models P. berghei and P. yoelii are consequently not
only used to identify suitable genes for generating GAPs but also to assess the safety and
immunogenicity of GAPs. Thereby, these studies establish a road-map for designing P.
falciparum GAPs and provide information critical in the decision to proceed with trials
in humans.
Several different GAPs have been generated in the rodent malaria parasites P. berghei
and P. yoelii that abort development in the liver [7-9;19;20]. These include GAPs that lack
genes essential for the formation and maintenance of a parasitophorous vacuole (p52,
128 l Chapter 7
p36, uis3 and uis4; [7-9;21]), genes involved in type II fatty acid synthesis (i.e. fabb/f
and fabz; [22;23] and a gene involved in (post-)transcriptional regulation of sporozoite/
early liver stage genes (sap1/slarp; [19;20;24]). Immunization of mice with sporozoites
of all these GAPs induces, to varying degrees, protection against challenge with wild
type (WT) parasites. Some of these GAPs confer protection against WT challenge after
a single dose immunization with as few as 1000–10000 attenuated sporozoites [21;25].
Since unequivocal orthologs for the two rodent uis-genes are absent in the P. falciparum
genome (www.PlasmoDB.org) and P. berghei GAP lacking SLARP has been reported to
induce limited protective immune responses [20], GAPs lacking p52 and p36 or genes
involved in type II fatty acid synthesis (FAS II) are considered GAP vaccine candidates for
translation into the human malaria parasite, P. falciparum [18;22;26].
Occasional breakthrough blood infections in mice after immunization with rodent GAPs
lacking uis4 and p52 [7;9] emphasize the importance of removing multiple genes in the
generation of GAPs that are completely attenuated. Infection of mice with high doses
of P. yoelii sporozoites of a ‘double gene deletion’ GAP lacking two genes, p52 and p36,
showed no breakthrough blood infections in the P. yoelii rodent model [21]. Generation
of equivalent P. falciparum GAPs lacking these genes [27] have provided evidence that
these P. falciparum GAPs show a comparable attenuation phenotype to the GAPs of
rodent malaria parasites. In cultured human hepatocytes and in mice carrying human
hepatocytes, these P. falciparum GAP abort development in hepatocytes soon after
sporozoite invasion. The observations of the growth arrest of P. yoelii and P. falciparum
GAP has led to the production of a P. falciparum GAP lacking expression of both P52 and
P36 for use in human clinical trials [18;27].
In this study we have analysed the adequacy of attenuation of two GAPs in the rodent
model, P. berghei, one lacking expression of both P52 and P36 (Δp52+p36) and the other
lacking expression of FabB/F (Δfabb/f). In addition, we have analysed the development of
P. falciparum Δp52+p36 parasites in cultured primary human hepatocytes. The presence
of developing liver stages and the development of breakthrough blood infections in mice
immunized with both P. berghei GAP show that the sporozoites of these GAP are not
completely attenuated. Moreover, we provide evidence that the P. falciparum Δp52+p36
GAP can produce replicating liver stages, indicating that this GAP is also not adequately
attenuated. These results clearly indicate that these GAP vaccine candidates require
additional refinement before advancing into clinical studies in humans. The high costs
and long time frames associated with clinical trials makes them inefficient methods
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 129
to screen potential whole-organism vaccines against malaria. We therefore propose
a robust and stringent screening approach, using multiple rodent malaria parasites
and multiple mice strains, to determine the adequacy of GAP attenuation, as the best
available and providing a stringent safety criterion before advancing with further clinical
development and studies in humans.
Materials and Methods
Animals and parasites
Female C57BL/6, BALB/c and Swiss OF1 mice (6-8 weeks old; Charles River/Janvier) were used. All
animal experiments were performed after a positive recommendation of the Animal Experiments
Committee of the LUMC (ADEC) and RUNMC (RUDEC 2008-123, RUDEC 2008-148) was issued to
the licensee. The Animal Experiment Committees are governed by section 18 of the Experiments
on Animals Act and are registered by the Dutch Inspectorate for Health, Protection and Veterinary
Public Health, which is part of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport. The Dutch Experiments
on Animal Act is established under European guidelines (EU directive no. 86/609/EEC regarding
the Protection of Animals used for Experimental and Other Scientific Purposes).
The following reference lines of the ANKA strain of P. berghei were used: line cl15cy1[28]; line
676m1cl1 (PbGFP-Luccon; see RMgm-29 in www.pberghei.eu) and 507cl1 (PbGFPcon; for details see
RMgm-7 in www.pberghei.eu). PbGFPcon expresses GFP from the constitutive eef1a promoter and
PbGFP-Luccon expresses a fusion protein of GFP and Luciferase from the eef1a promoter[29;30]. For
P. falciparum the lines NF54 (wild type; wt) and mutant lines PfΔp52+p36 and PfΔp52+p36gfp[31]
were used. In these mutant lines of the NF54 line the p52 (PFD0215c) and p36 (PFD0210c)
genes have been disrupted by double cross-over homologous integration[31]. Blood stages were
cultured in a semi-automated culture system using standard in vitro culture conditions for P.
falciparum and induction of gametocyte production in these cultures was performed as previously
described[32;33].
Generation and genotype analysis of P. berghei and P. falciparum
mutants
Detailed description of the generation and genotyping of the P. berghei and P. falciparum mutants
can be found in Supplemental Information.
130 l Chapter 7
Analysis of blood stage and oocyst development of P. falciparum and P.
berghei mutant parasites
P. falciparum blood stages were cultured in a semi-automated culture system using standard
in vitro culture conditions for P. falciparum and induction of gametocyte production in these
cultures was performed as previously described [32;33]. Blood stage development and production
of gametocytes of Pf∆p52+p36 and Pf∆p52+p36gfp were analyzed as described [31] and were
similar to parasites of the parent line NF54. Feeding of A. stephensi mosquitoes and determination
of oocyst production was performed as described [34]. Oocyst production of both Δpf5236 and
Δpf5236gfp were comparable to the parent line NF54 (Fig. 4A). The P. berghei mutants, ∆p52+p36
and ∆fabb/f, were maintained in Swiss OF1 mice. The multiplication rate of blood stages and
gametocyte production were determined during the cloning procedure [28] and were not different
from parasites of the reference ANKA lines. Feeding of A. stephensi mosquitoes and determination
of oocyst production was performed as described [35].
Analysis of P. berghei and P. falciparum sporozoite motility, traversal and
hepatocyte invasion
Detailed protocols for the analysis of P. berghei and P. falciparum sporozoite production, traversal,
and invasion as well as assays to monitor parasite development in cultured hepatcoyte in vitro can
be found in Supplemental Information.
Analysis of P. berghei sporozoite infectivity in mice and in vivo imaging of
liver stage development in mice
C57BL/6 mice were inoculated with sporozoites by intravenous injection of different sporozoite
numbers, ranging from 1x104 - 5x105. Blood stage infections were monitored by analysis of
Giemsa-stained thin smears of tail blood collected on day 4-14 after inoculation of sporozoites.
Pre-patency (measured in days after sporozoite inoculation) is defined as the day when parasitemia
of 0.5-2%.in the blood is observed. Liver stage development in live mice was monitored by real
time in vivo imaging of liver stages as described [36;37]. Liver stages were visualized by measuring
luciferase activity of parasites (expressing luciferase under the eef1a promoter) in whole bodies of
mice or in dissected livers using the IVIS100 Imaging System (Caliper Life Sciences, USA). Animals
were anesthetized using the isofluorane-anesthesia system (XGI-8, Caliper Life Sciences, USA),
their belly was shaved and D-luciferin dissolved in PBS (100 mg/kg; Synchem Laborgemeinschaft
OHG, Germany) was injected subcutaneously (in the neck). Animals were kept anesthetized
during the measurements, which were performed within 3 to 5 minutes after the injection of
D-luciferin. Bioluminescence imaging was acquired with a 10 cm FOV, medium binning factor and
an exposure time of 10 to 180 seconds. Quantitative analysis of bioluminescence of whole bodies
was performed by measuring the luminescence signal intensity using the ROI settings of the Living
Image® 3.0 software. The ROI was set to measure the abdominal area at the location of the liver
and ROI measurements are expressed in total flux of photons.
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 131
Immunizations of mice with P. berghei sporozoites
BALB/C and C57BL6 mice were immunized by intravenous injection using different numbers of
∆p52+p36 and ∆fabb/f sporozoites that were collected as described above. Immunized mice were
monitored for blood infections by analysis of Giemsa stained films of tail blood at day 4-16 after
immunization. Immunized mice were challenged at different time points after immunization by
intravenous injection 1x104 sporozoites from the P. berghei ANKA reference lines cl15cy1 or the
PbGFP-Luccon. In each experiment, naïve mice were included to verify infectivity of the sporozoite
used for challenge. After challenge, mice were monitored for blood infections by analysis of
Giemsa stained films of tail blood at day 4-16. The pre-patent period is defined as the period
(days) between sporozoite challenge and the day that mice showed a blood parasitemia of 0.5-2%.
Results
Generation and characterization of two P. berghei GAPs,
Δfabb/f and Δp52+p36
Two P. berghei gene-deletion mutants (GAP), Δfabb/f and Δp52+p36, were generated
using standard methods of gene targeting by double cross-over integration and for each
mutant two independent parasite clones were produced (Fig. S1-3; Table S1). For each
GAP, one mutant was generated in the P. berghei reference reporter line, PbGFP-Luccon,
which allows for visualisation and counting of GFP-expressing parasites in hepatocytes,
in vitro, and analysis of liver-stage development in live mice by real time in vivo imaging
[38]. The Δfabb/f mutant lacks expression of elongation condensing enzyme 3-oxoacylacyl-carrier protein synthase I/II, FabB/F (Fig. 1B), an enzyme of the bacterial-like type
II fatty acid biosynthesis (FAS-II) pathway [39]. For P. yoelii it has been demonstrated
that enzymes of this pathway are highly expressed in sporozoites and liver-stages and
FabB/F was shown to be essential for complete development of liver stages [23;26]. The
Δp52+p36 Mutants lack expression of two 6-cys protein family members [21;40-42], P52
and P36 (Fig. 1A). These genes are expressed in sporozoites and liver stages and appear
to be important to the formation and/or maintenance of the parasitophorous vacuole
membrane in the infected hepatocyte [9;21;42].
132 l Chapter 7
A
p52 and p36 locus
679 bp
cs
723 bp
6310 6139
6305 6306
p36
p52
5’
3’
6304
6140
786 bp
locus
6302 6303
cs orf
6301
B
fabb/f locus
5’
894 bp
6312 6313
fabb/f orf
RT+ RT-
3’
WT
RT+
RT-
p52
0.5
1
p36
0.5
1
cs
0.5
∆fabb/f-a
WT
RT+ RT-
RT+ RT-
fabb/f
0.5
1
cs
0.5
Spz No. (x103)
Mean ± sd
Gliding motility
No. of circles
Mean ± sd
Cell traversal
% traversed cells
Mean ± sd
WT (cl15cy1)
85 ± 25
102 ± 28
89 ± 3
20.7 ± 3.0
WT (PbGFP-Luccon)
63 ± 15
86 ± 24
nd
18.9 ± 2.1
Δp52+p36-a
85 ± 30
133 ± 40
88 ± 3
22.6 ± 1.6
Δfabb/f
46 ± 19
121 ± 31
93 ± 1
22.1 ± 1.6
Δp52+p36-b
49 ± 23
95 ± 8
nd
19.4 ± 0.7
Δp52+p36-a
‘breakthrough’
65 ± 17
91 ± 27
nd
18.7± 0.5
E
WT
f
b/
ab
Δf
5
Δp
6
p3
2+
18S rRNA (%)
Oocyst No.
Mean ± sd
Parasite
% Intra-hepatic Spz
D
∆p52+p36-b
kb
1
6311
C
kb
1
Δp52+p36
Δfabb/f
WT
5
24
40 48 54 65
hpi
Figure 1. Characterisation of P. berghei Δp52+p36 and Δfabb/f mutant parasites A. qRT-PCR analysis
showing absence of p52 and p36 transcripts in sporozoites of ∆p52+p36-b. PCR amplification using purified
sporozoite RNA was performed either in the presence or absence of reverse transcriptase (RT+ or RT-,
respectively) using the primers as shown in the left panel (see Table S1 for the sequence of the primers).
The P. berghei circumsporozoite protein gene (cs) was used as a positive control. B. qRT-PCR analysis
showing absence of fabb/f transcripts in sporozoites mutant of ∆p52+p36-b. PCR amplification using
purified sporozoite RNA was performed either in the presence or absence of reverse transcriptase (RT+ or
RT-, respectively) using the primers 6312 and 6313 (see Table S1 for the sequence of the primers). The P.
berghei circumsporozoite protein gene (cs) was used as a positive control C. Table of oocyst and sporozoite
production in A. stephensi mosquitoes (given as numbers), sporozoite motility (as numbers of anti-CS ‘circle’
trails) and cell traversal capacity (mean number of cultured hepatocytes, Huh7, traversed) of P. berghei wild
type (WT) and mutant parasites. D. In vitro development 3 hours after sporozoites invasion of hepatocytes
(Huh7) by P. berghei GAPs is represented as the ratio of extra- and intra-hepatic sporozoites; determined
after 3 wash steps to remove sporozoites in suspension (see C). E. Growth of P. berghei GAPs intra-hepatic
stages in culture (in Huh7 cells) at different hours post invasion (hpi) of sporozoites. Growth is determined
by qRT-PCR of 18s P. berghei rRNA. RNA levels shown are relative to RNA levels of WT liver-stages.
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 133
The Δfabb/f and Δp52+p36 mutants showed normal blood-stage development (Table
S2) and produced oocyst and sporozoite numbers comparable to those of WT parasites
(Fig. 1C). Salivary gland sporozoites demonstrated normal gliding motility, hepatocyte
traversal and sporozoites of all mutants were able to invade hepatocytes at WT levels
(Fig. 1C and 1D). After in vitro invasion of hepatocytes, the Δp52+p36 mutants showed
a greater than 90% reduction in liver stage development at 24 hours after sporozoite
invasion as determined by qRT-PCR analysis of parasite ribosomal RNA (Fig. 1E). The early
growth-arrest of Δp52+p36 parasites was confirmed by analysis of infected hepatocytes
by immuno-fluorescence microscopy after staining with Hoechst and antibodies against
the parasite protein HSP70 (Fig. 2A and 2B). The early arrest of Δp52+p36 parasites
after hepatocyte invasion is similar to the phenotype reported for P. berghei mutants
lacking expression of only P52 and P. yoelii mutants lacking both P52 and P36 [21].
In addition, immunization of BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice with the Δp52+p36 mutants
showed comparable levels of protection against challenge with WT parasites (Table S3)
as observed with P. berghei mutants lacking p52 or P. yoelii mutants lacking p52 and p36
[21]. Full protection was induced in BALB/c mice with a single dose with as few as 1000
sporozoites inoculated intravenously (IV) whereas protection in C57BL/6 mice required
3 immunizations (Table S3).
In contrast to the early growth-arrest phenotype of Δp52+p36, liver stages of Δfabb/f
developed into mature forms as shown by qRT-PCR analysis and immuno-fluorescence
microscopy (Fig. 1E, Fig. 2A). During in vitro liver stage development, the Δfabb/f parasites
were morphologically similar to WT parasites as judged by immuno-fluorescence
microscopy (Fig. 2A). However, schizonts showed a significantly lower level of expression
of the merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1); at 48 hours post infection (hpi) only 18%
of the Δfabb/f schizonts strongly expressed MSP1 whereas 39% of WT parasites were
MSP1-positive (p<0.001) and this increased to 54% in WT and 37% in Δfabb/f at 54hpi
(p=0.01) as shown in Fig. 2C (and Fig. S5A/B). The normal morphology of maturing
Δfabb/f liver stages and expression of MSP1 parasites is different from the phenotype
reported for P. yoelii parasites lacking expression of FabB/F, where schizonts show clear
signs of aberrant nuclear morphology and a complete absence of MSP1 expression [22].
134 l Chapter 7
A
αMSP1 / αEXP1
48 hpi
54 hpi
αHSP70/ αEXP1
24 hpi
40 hpi
WT
10µm
Δfabb/f
Δp52+p36
#Liver stages
B
C
1500
WT
Δfabb/f
Δp52+p36
1000
500
0
24 hpi
48hpi
(%)
100
80
60
40
20
0
48hpi
54hpi
MSP++
MSP+
MSP-
W
T
a
Δf
bb
/f
W
T
a
Δf
bb
/f
Figure 2. Development of P. berghei Δp52+p36 and Δfabb/f parasites in vitro A. Development of liverstage parasites of P. berghei GAPs in culture as shown by immuno-fluorescence analysis of parasites at
different hpi. Staining with anti-PbCSP-antibodies at 3hpi in the invasion assay (see A) distinguishes
extracellular (green) from intracellular (yellow/orange) sporozoites; anti-PbEXP1 and anti-HSP70 antibodies
recognize the parasitophorous vacuole (green) and the parasite cytoplasm (red), respectively; anti-PbMSP1
antibodies (red) is a marker of PbMSP1 expression during merozoite formation in mature liver-stage
parasites. Nuclei are stained with Hoechst-33342. In the Δfabb/f parasites PbMSP1 expression is strongly
reduced (see D). While >99% of Δp52+p36 liver-stage parasites abort development soon after invasion a
few, PbEXP1-negative, parasites do mature and are detectable at 54hpi. B. Mean number of intra-hepatic
(liver stage) WT and P. berghei mutant parasites at 24hpi and 48hpi per in vitro culture well (4 wells counted
per time point for each mutant sporozoite infection). C. Relative PbMSP1 expression in P. berghei liverstages at 48hpi and 54hpi as determined by staining with anti-PbMSP1 antibodies of cultured liver-stages
(see A). MSP++: intense staining; MSP+: weak staining; MSP-: MSP negative. See Figure S3 for the relative
MSP1 staining of Δfabb/f liver-stage parasites.
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 135
Sporozoites of the P. berghei GAPs, Δfabb/f and
Δp52+p36, are not completely attenuated
To examine the adequacy of attenuation of the Δfabb/f and Δp52+p36 mutants in vivo,
we infected mice of two different strains, BALB/c and C57BL/6, with high sporozoite
doses. An IV dose of 50K sporozoites did not result in blood infections in BALB/c mice
in the two independent Δp52+p36 mutants (Table 1). In contrast, IV injection of 50K
sporozoites of the two Δfabb/f mutants resulted in breakthrough blood infections in the
majority (80-100%) of BALB/c mice (Table 1). Moreover, all C57BL/6 mice developed a
blood stage infection when infected with 50K sporozoites of both independent Δfabb/f
mutants (Table 1). Genotyping of the breakthrough blood parasites (Δfabb/fbr) by PCR
and Southern analysis of chromosomes showed that these parasites had the Δfabb/f
genotype (data not shown). The blood infections show a prolonged prepatency period of
1-2 days as compared to WT parasites. Assuming a P. berghei blood stage multiplication
rate of 10x per 24 hour this delay to patency indicates a 90-99% reduction in the
production and/or infectivity of the Δfabb/f exo-erythrocytic merozoites. Despite the
Table 1. Breakthrough blood infections after intravenous injection of different doses of P.
berghei GAP sporozoites
Mice
Parasites
Dose
breakthrough/
infected animals a
breakthrough
%
Pre-patency
(days)
BALB/c
WT
Δfabb/f-a
Δfabb/f-b
Δp52+p36-a
Δp52+p36-b
WT
Δfabb/f-a
Δfabb/f-b
Δp52+p36-a
1x104
5 x104
5 x104
5 x104
5 x104
1 x104
5 x104
5 x104
5 x104
5/5
12/15
10/10
0/10
0/10
5/5
15/15
10/10
1/10
100
80
100
0
0
100
100
100
10
5-6
6-7
7-8
n/a
n/a
5-6
6-7
6-7
6
Δp52+p36-b
5 x104
2/10
20
6-7
Δp52+p36-br
‘breakthrough’ b
5 x104
7/12
58
6-8
C57BL/6
Number of mice showing breakthrough infections of the total number of infected mice.
Δp52+p36 ‘breakthrough’ are parasites that were derived from a mouse that had a breakthrough blood
infection after infection with sporozoites of mutant Δp52+p36.
a
b
136 l Chapter 7
significant reduction in production of infectious merozoites, our results show that P.
berghei Δfabb/f sporozoites are only weakly attenuated compared to P. yoelii sporozoites
lacking expression of FabB/F [22].
As infection of BALB/c mice with 50K sporozoites of the Δp52+p36 mutants did not result
in breakthrough blood infections it was surprising that a low percentage of C57BL/6 mice
(10-20%) produced breakthrough blood infections after inoculation with 50K sporozoites
(Table 1). The prepatent period of these ‘breakthrough’ infections was prolonged by 1-2
days compared to WT. Genotyping of the breakthrough blood parasites (Δp52+p36br)
by PCR and Southern analysis of chromosomes confirmed that these parasites had
the Δp52+p36 genotype (Fig. S1D). To examine the possibility that parasites can stably
switch to an alternative, P52/P36 independent, mechanism of liver stage development
we analysed infections in mice after inoculation of 50K sporozoites derived from the
Δp52+p36br parasites. Five out of 12 mice did not produce blood infections and those
mice that developed a blood infection had a prolonged prepatent period of 1-2 days.
Although the percentage of mice with breakthrough blood infections after infection with
Δp52+p36br sporozoites is higher (58%) then after infection with Δp52+p36 sporozoites
(10-20%), these results indicate that the Δp52+p36br are not derived from parasites that
had permanently switched to an efficient and P52/P36 independent mechanism of liver
stage development.
Evidence for complete development of P. berghei
Δp52+p36 parasites in hepatocytes in vitro and in vivo
For P. berghei it has been reported that WT sporozoites are not completely restricted
to hepatocytes for development but can also develop into infectious merozoites in
skin cells, albeit at a very low frequency [43;44]. The Δp52+p36 breakthrough blood
infections may therefore result from development of a low number of sporozoites in
cells of other organs where the establishment of a PVM is less critical. To investigate
whether Δp52+p36 sporozoites could develop in hepatocytes into maturing liver stages
we analysed development of Δp52+p36 sporozoites in cultured hepatocytes and in mice
using real time in vivo imaging of liver stage development. Most Δp52+p36 parasites
rapidly disappear from in vitro hepatocyte cultures as shown by quantitative analyses of
infected hepatocytes by fluorescence microscopy. However, in depth analyses whereby
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 137
all hepatocytes present in the culture wells were analysed by fluorescence microscopy
at 48h and 54h after adding sporozoites, showed very low numbers of Δp52+p36 liverschizonts, 1 to 4 per well, that were comparable in size to WT schizonts (Fig. 2A). These
liver-schizonts expressed MSP1 as shown by staining with anti-MSP1 antibodies and
contained large numbers of distinct nuclei comparable to mature WT schizonts (Fig.
2A). Interestingly, in contrast to schizonts of WT and Δfabb/f, the Δp52+p36 schizonts
were negative for staining with antibodies recognizing the PVM-resident protein EXP1,
suggesting that the PVM of these parasites is compromised (Fig. 2A, Fig. S4A). We
next examined development of Δp52+p36 sporozoites in live mice using real-time in
vivo imaging of luciferase-expressing parasites [38]. In the liver of mice infected with
sporozoites of the reference WT line expressing luciferase, PbGFP-Luccon, liver stage
luminescence signals can be detected at 24h after infection with sporozoites and
imaging between 40h and 60h allows the detection of individual liver schizonts [38]. As
expected, based on the Δfabb/f breakthrough blood infections and in vitro maturation
of Δfabb/f liver schizonts, infected hepatocytes were clearly visible in all mice infected
with 50K Δfabb/f sporozoites at 42hpi (Fig. 3A). In contrast, imaging mice infected with
50K Δp52+p36 sporozoites, did not show luminescence signals at 42hpi in 7 out of 10
mice. None of the luminescence-negative mice developed a breakthrough blood stage
infection, indicating the absence of developing Δp52+p36 sporozoites. Interestingly, in 3
mice we observed a clear luminescence signal in the liver although luciferase signals were
confined to a few (1-3) individual spots as compared to the strong luminescence signals
of whole livers that were observed in mice infected with WT or Δfabb/f sporozoites (Fig.
3A). Two of the 3 luminescence-positive mice developed a breakthrough blood infection
and genotyping of the progeny of the blood parasites confirmed the Δp52+p36 genotype
(Fig. S1D). Combined these results indicate that the breakthrough blood infections in
these mice are associated with the presence of developing Δp52+p36 parasites in the
liver. The one mouse that was luminescence-positive but did not develop a blood infection
may indicate that certain cases Δp52+p36 liver sporozoites develop into maturing liver
stages but abort development before production of infectious merozoites.
138 l Chapter 7
A
Breakthrough
blood infections
WT
Δfabb/f
50K
10K
5/5
7/10
B
108
RLU
107
10/10
Δp52+p36
50K
50K
No blood
infection
Δp52+p36
50K
50K
1/10
Figure 3. Development of P. berghei Δp52+p36 and
Δfabb/f parasites in vivo. A. Development P. berghei GAPs
in C57BL/6 mice as shown by real time in vivo imaging of
luciferase-expressing liver-stage parasites at 40hpi. The
upper panels show that all mice infected with 103 (10K)
WT sporozoites developed a breakthrough infection in the
blood (i.e. 5 out of 5 mice), and all mice (10/10) infected
with 50K Δfabb/f parasites numbers also developed a
breakthrough infection. When 10 C57BL/6 mice were
infected with 50K Δp52+p36 sporozoites only 2 produced
a breakthrough blood infection, the 2 mice that developed
a blood stage infection are shown and individual spots
(possibly individual infected hepatocytes) localizing to
the liver are clearly visible (see white arrows). 8 of the 10
C57BL/6 mice infected with 50K Δp52+p36 sporozoites
did not develop a blood infection, in 7 of these mice no
luciferase expressing parasites were visible. However, 1
mouse did show an individual spot (white arrow) in the
liver but did not generate a blood infection. All mice were
infected with hand dissected sporozoites injected IV. B.
Graph showing the measured relative light intensity of
C57BL/6 mice infected with 103 (10K) WT and 5x105 (50K)
Δp52+p36 and Δfabb/f sporozoites IV at 40hpi; as shown in
(A) and depicted as relative light units (RLU).
106
105
104
Some P. falciparum Δp52+p36 sporozoites are able to
develop into replicating liver-stage forms
We next examined if the ability of low numbers of Δp52+p36 sporozoites to develop
into maturing liver stages was specific for P. berghei or that a similar phenotype could
also be observed for P. falciparum Δp52+p36 parasites. Recently it has been reported
that P. falciparum Δp52+p36 sporozoites invaded but did not mature in hepatocytes in
culture or in a chimeric mouse harboring human hepatocytes [27]. Using sporozoites
derived from two P. falciparum Δp52+p36 mutants, PfΔp52+p36 and PfΔp52+p36gfp
[45] we examined their development in cultures of primary human hepatocytes. These
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 139
P. falciparum mutants show normal in vitro blood stage development [45] as well as
oocyst and sporozoite production (Fig. 4A) and we confirmed by RT-PCR that sporozoites
of these mutants are unable to express either p52 or p36 (Fig. 4B). In culture, sporozoites
showed cell traversal (Fig. 4C) and hepatocyte invasion (Fig. 4D) comparable to WT
sporozoites but 24h after invasion the vast majority (>99%) of parasites became arrested
as observed by HSP70 antibody-staining on days 2-7 post invasion (Fig. 4D). However,
after in depth analyses whereby all hepatocytes present in the culture wells were
analyzed by fluorescence microscopy, we detected very low numbers of PfΔp52+p36
parasites (occasionally 1 per well) at day 2, 3 and 4 after sporozoite invasion that
were comparable in size to WT parasites. These parasites could be detected in both
the PfΔp52+p36 and PfΔp52+p36gfp mutant and the parasites present at day 4 clearly
demonstrated nuclear division as shown by the presence of multiple, DAPI-stained
nuclei (Fig. 4E). Since the p52 and p36 genes of both mutants had been deleted by
double cross-over homologous recombination, the replicating parasites present at day 4
cannot be due to parasites that have a WT genotype as a result of a ‘reversion’ event that
can occur when genes are deleted by a single cross-over homologous recombination
[34]. These observations therefore provide evidence that P. falciparum sporozoites can
progress into replicating liver stages in the absence of P52 and P36, comparable to P.
berghei Δp52+p36 sporozoites.
Discussion
In this study we report an assessment of the adequacy of attenuation using the P. berghei
rodent model of two GAPs for which a complete liver stage growth arrest has been
previously reported in BALB/c mice infected with the rodent parasite P. yoelii. For both P.
berghei and P. yoelii it has been shown that the bacterial like type II fatty acid synthesis
(FAS II) pathway plays an important role for liver stage development [22;46]. Deletion of 3
of the 4 genes that encode the key enzymes of this pathway, FabB/F, FabZ and FabI, have
no effect on blood stage development but severely affect late liver stage development
[22;46]. In P. yoelii deletion of either FabB/F or FabZ resulted in a complete growth arrest
of liver stages. Moreover, it has been recently reported that P. yoelii parasites lacking
FabB/F give rise to broader and larger protective CD8 responses in mice, than either
IrrSpz or early arresting GAPs, making them promising ‘second-generation’ GAPs [23]. In
140 l Chapter 7
contrast to the observations in P. yoelii, we found that P. berghei GAP lacking expression
of FabB/F is not attenuated, in either BALB/c or C57BL/6 mice, although the prolonged
prepatent period to a blood infection indicates a significant reduction in the generation
of infectious merozoites. This phenotype of partial attenuation is comparable to the
phenotype of P. berghei mutants lacking expression of FabI [46], which also showed
a severe delay in the onset of blood stage patency. Liver schizonts of P. yoelii mutants
lacking expression of FASII pathway enzymes showed clear features of aberrant nuclear
division and an absence of the merozoite specific protein, MSP1, expression. In contrast,
the liver schizonts of the P. berghei mutants expressed MSP1 although the level of MSP1
expression was clearly delayed in comparison to WT parasites. These observations
indicate that differences exist as to the essential nature of the FAS II pathway for P. berghei
and P. yoelii liver stages. To which extent P. falciparum liver stages are dependent on the
FASII pathways is as yet unknown and awaits investigations on mutant P. falciparum liver
stages in primary hepatocytes.
P. yoelii and P. berghei GAP lacking expression of P52 and P36 show a developmental
arrest early after invasion of the hepatocyte [9;21]. These proteins belong to the 6-cys
protein family consisting of 10 members, most of which are expressed in a discrete
stage-specific manner; in gametocytes, sporozoites or merozoites [41]. P52, a putative
GPI-anchored protein and P36, a putative secreted protein, are both expressed in
sporozoites and early liver stages [41;42;47]. Despite the early growth-arrest phenotype,
C57BL/6 mice inoculated with sporozoites of ‘single gene deletion’ mutants lacking
either P52 or P36 result in breakthrough blood infections in a low number of mice
[9]. Since both proteins belong to the same family of proteins and their genes form
a paralogous pair in the genome it has been reasoned that they may perform partly
redundant functions and that removal of both genes might result in parasites that show
a complete growth arrest during development in the liver. Indeed, complete attenuation
has been reported for P. yoelii sporozoites that lack expression of both P52 and P36
[21] and this attenuation of the ‘double gene deletion’ mutants was demonstrated
by the absence of breakthrough blood infections in BALB/c mice or Wistar rats after
IV injection of up to 105 sporozoites. In agreement with these studies we found no
breakthrough blood infections with P. berghei sporozoites lacking both P52 and P36
when tested in BALB/c mice. However, when C57BL/6 mice were injected with similar
doses of sporozoites of the P. berghei ‘double gene deletion’ mutants, we observed
breakthrough blood infections in a low percentage of mice, showing that these mutants
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 141
A
Sporozoite
(x103) no.
Mean + s.d.
WT (NF54)
47 (17-67)
95
102 (23)
PfΔp52+36
43 (30-60)
95
98 (14)
PfΔp52+36gfp
65 (39-81)
100
136 (36)
52
+3
6g
fp
NF
+ - + -
Pf
Δp
52
+3
Pf
Δp
54
+ -
RT
394bp
p52
485bp
p36
134bp
18S rRNA
C
25
20
15
10
5
0
D
NF54
Δp52+36
% Intra-hepatic Spz
PfΔp52+p36gfp
PfΔp52+p36 1500
WT
Dapi
HSP70
1000
500
3 hrs 24 hrs
E
Dextran
Dapi
DAPI
nd 2*
Dapi
1*
nd
HSP70
3* 1*
nd nd
nd nd
day 2
day 3
day 4
day 5
day 7
Δp5236
Day3
HSP70
αHSP70
Day 3
Δp5236
Day3
Day 4
Δp5236
Day4
Δp5236
No. liver stage parasites
B
Traversed cells (%)
Infected
mosquitoes (%)
6
Oocyst
(IQR)
Parasite
Δp5236
Day3
0
Δp5236
Day4
Day 4
Δp5236
Day4
Δp5236
Figure 4. Characterisation of P. falciparum
Δp52+p36 (PfΔp52+p36
and PfΔp52+p36gfp) parasites. A.
Day4
Day4
Oocyst and sporozoite production in A. stephensi mosquitoes infected with P. falciparum wild type (WT),
PfΔp52+p36 and PfΔp52+p36gfp parasites. B. RT-PCR analysis showing absence of p52 and p36 transcripts
Δp5236
in P. falciparum mutant sporozoites. PCR Day4
amplification using purified sporozoite RNA was performed
either in the presence or absence of reverse transcriptase (RT+ or RT-, respectively), the positive control
was performed by PCR of 18S rRNA using primers 18Sf/18Sr (for primer sequences see Methods). C. Cell
traversal ability of P. falciparum WT (NF54) and mutant sporozoites as determined by FACS counting of
Dextran positive hepG2 cells. Dextran: hepatocytes cultured in the presence of Dextran but without the
addition of sporozoites. D. In vitro invasion of P. falciparum Δp52+p36 sporozoites and development of
liver-stages in primary human hepatocytes. Invasion is represented as the ratio of extra- and intracellular
sporozoites by double staining at 3 and 24 hpi, determined after 3 wash steps to remove sporozoites in
suspension. From day 2 to 7 the number of parasites per 96-well was determined by counting parasites
stained with anti-P. falciparum HSP70 antibodies. * Total number of liver-stages observed in 6 wells, where
infected cells were not identified they are indicated as not detected (nd). E. At day 4 low numbers of liverstages were detected, possessing multiple nuclei (i.e. replicating) as shown by DAPI staining of their nuclei
(white arrows).
142 l Chapter 7
did not completely abort development in the liver. These results indicate that differences
may exist between P. yoelii and P. berghei on their dependence on P36 and P52 for liver
stage development comparable to the differences in dependence on the FAS II pathway.
For P52 evidence has been presented for a role in establishment and/or maintenance
of the parasitophorous vacuole [9;21;42] and the early growth-arrest of sporozoites
lacking P52 would suggest that liver stage parasites cannot develop in the absence of a
competent PVM. For both P. berghei and P. yoelii it has recently been reported that WT
sporozoites are not completely restricted to hepatocytes for development but can also
develop into infectious merozoites in skin cells, albeit at a very low frequency [43;44]. It
may therefore be that the Δp52+p36 breakthrough blood infections in the C57BL/6 mice
arise from sporozoites that have invaded and undergone development in cells other than
the liver. However, our observations on maturation of P. berghei Δp52+36 liver stages
both in cultured hepatocytes and as in living mice using in vivo imaging provide evidence
that breakthrough infections result from merozoites derived from schizonts developing
in hepatocytes. Apart from a possible difference in attenuation between P. yoelii and P.
berghei sporozoites lacking P52 and P36, the observed P. berghei breakthrough blood
infections may also be explained by differences in intracellular survival of attenuated
sporozoites inside cells from different mouse strains. Breakthrough blood infections
were only observed in C57BL/6 mice and like in P. yoelii, infection of BALB/c mice with
high doses of P. berghei Δp52+p36 did not result in ‘breakthrough’ blood infections. It
is known that large difference exist in the dose of sporozoites that is needed to obtain
full protective immunity in C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice, where C57BL/6 mice are the more
difficult to protect requiring multiple boosting immunizations. It has been suggested
that differences in the protective immune responses may be partly attributed to the
presence of an immunodominant CD8 +T cell epitope present in the circumsporozoite
protein that is H2Kd -restricted [48-50]. Our observations that all Δp52+p36 infected
liver cells are removed in BALB/c mice whereas low numbers of Δp52+p36 sporozoites
are able to complete full liver development in C57BL/6 mice indicate that differences
exist between these mouse strains in both the innate and acquired immune responses
that are responsible for the recognition and removal of infected hepatocytes. Studies
with IrrSpz of P. yoelii inoculated into both BALB/c and immunocompromised mice have
shown that sufficiently irradiated sporozoites are unable to create breakthrough blood
infections, indicating that abortion of development is due the failure of the parasite to
multiply and not the host to eliminate the infection [51]. Interestingly, our observations
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 143
of breakthrough blood infections of the two rodent GAP provide evidence that the
adequacy of sporozoite attenuation is not only dependent on the Plasmodium species
studied, as in the case of genes encoding enzymes of the FASII pathway, but can also
be influenced by host factors. Our results demonstrate that P. berghei in C57BL/6 mice
is a more stringent model for preclinical testing of these GAPs than P. yoelii in BALB/c
mice. This observation is emphasized by our analysis of P. falciparum Δp52+p36 GAP in
cultured primary human hepatocytes. The observations of low numbers of replicating
liver stages demonstrates that maturation of Δp52+p36 liver stages is not specific for P.
berghei but can also occur in P. falciparum and underscores the incomplete attenuation
of Plasmodium GAP lacking both P52 and P36. While we were not able to observe
replicating P. falciparum Δp52+p36 liver stages after day 4, we believe that this may
result from the drop of 30-40% we observe in cultured primary human hepatocytes
between day 5 and day 7, as can be observed with WT infected hepatocytes. Therefore
the few Δp52+p36 replicating parasites may be below the level of detection in this assay.
In a recent clinical trial, where human volunteers were immunized with P. falciparum
Δp52+p36 GAP a breakthrough blood infection was confirmed in one volunteer [52].
In conclusion, our combined data based on P. berghei and P. falciparum provides a strong
indication that Δp52+p36 and Δfabb/f GAP are not sufficiently attenuated to move
forward for further clinical development. Multiple genes governing independent cellular
process, vital to liver-stage development, must be removed such that abortion of liver
stage development is complete. Our data underline the need for stringent preclinical
testing of GAP before advancing into human vaccine trials. We therefore propose
that GAP attenuation evaluation should preferably include, but not be limited to: (i)
generation and analysis of equivalent GAPs in both P. yoelii and P. berghei; (ii) these GAPs
should be tested for breakthrough blood infections in different mice strains (e.g. BALB/c,
C57BL/6 and outbred mice) with escalating doses of sporozoites; and (iii) analysis of
the corresponding P. falciparum GAP should be tested for liver-stage development in
cultured human hepatocytes.
144 l Chapter 7
Acknowledgements
This study was performed within the framework of Top Institute Pharma (Netherlands)
project: T4-102. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis,
decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We would like to thank Prof. Volker
Heussler (Institute of Cell Biology, University of Bern, Switzerland) and Prof. Maria Mota
(Insituto de Medicina Molecular, University of Lisbon, Portugal) for kindly providing us
with the anti-P. berghei EXP1 and HSP70 antibodies, respectively. The authors would like
to thank Marga van de Vegte-Bolmer for mosquito feeds and Jolanda Klaassen, Astrid
Pouwelsen, Laura Pelser-Posthumus and Jacqueline Kuhnen (RUNMC, Nijmegen) for their
help with the maintenance/dissection of mosquitoes and Jai Ramesar, Michel Mulders
(LUMC), Claudia Lagarde, Alex Inacio and Iris Lamers-Elemans (RUNMC, Nijmegen) for
assistance with the P. berghei infections.
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Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 147
Supplementary Material
A
SM (tgdhfr-ts)
3’ target
1029 bp
L775
L1212 3’ target
5’ target
p52 orf
p36 orf
1050 bp
1093 bp
1203 bp
L1389
L313
4501
4502 4239
4702
5’ target
5’ target
SM (tgdhfr-ts)
B
3’ target
C
∆p52+p36-a
WT
SM 5’ 3’ ORF SM 5’ 3’ ORF
kb
2
1
∆p52+p36-b
kb
DNA-construct
pL1164
p52 and p36 locus
Disrupted locus
∆p52+p36-a
∆p52+p36-b
Chr
9
Chr
9
7
7
WT
SM 5’ 3’ ORF SM 5’ 3’ ORF
2
3
1
D
∆p52+p36-br1
kb
WT
SM 5’ ORF SM 5’ ORF
Chr
9
1
∆p52+p36-br2
kb
1
WT
SM 5’ ORF SM 5’ ORF
7
3
3
Figure S1. Generation
of P. berghei mutants
∆p52+p36-a
and
∆p52+p36-b
and
genotype
analyses
of
∆p52+p36-a.
A.
Schematic showing the
generation of mutants
∆p52+p36-a (759cl1) and
∆p52+p36-b (1409cl1).
The
DNA-construct
pL1164 is aimed at
disruption of target genes,
p52 and p36, by double
cross-over homologous
recombination.
The
sequence of the primers
to amplify the 5’- and
3’-target
regions
of
the genes are shown
in Table S1. Primers for
diagnostic PCR (table S1)
and size of the PCR DNA
fragments are shown.
B. Diagnostic PCR for
confirmation of correct
disruption of p52 and
p36 in mutant ∆p52+p36a and ∆p52+p36-b. SM:
selectable marker (primers 4501/4502); 5’-integration event (primers L1389/L313); 3’-integration event
(primers 4239/47020); ORF (primers L775/L121). See Table S1 for the sequence of the primers.C. Southern
analysis of Pulse Field Gel (PFG)-separated chromosomes of mutant ∆p52+p36-a and ∆p52+p36-b. Mutant
∆p52+p36-a has been generated in the reference P. berghei ANKA line PbGFPcon which has a gfp gene
integrated into the silent 230p locus (PBANKA_030600) on chromosome 3 (i.e. RMgm-7; http://pberghei.
eu/index.php?rmgm=7). Mutant ∆p52+p36-b has been generated in the reference P. berghei ANKA line
PbGFP-Luccon which has a gfp-luciferase gene integrated into the silent 230p locus (PBANKA_030600) on
chromosome 3 (i.e. RMgm-29; http://pberghei.eu/index.php?rmgm=29) . Hybridization with the 3’-UTR
dhfr/ts probe recognizes the integrated construct on chromosome 9, the reporter GFP-Luccon construct on
chromosome 3, and the endogenous dhfr/ts gene located on chromosome 7. D. PCR and FIGE confirmation
that the ∆p52+p36-b parasites that produced a break through blood infections in BALB/c mice had the
correct, mutant, genotype (see Figure 3).
148 l Chapter 7
Figure S2. Generation and genotype analyses of P.
berghei mutant; ∆fabb/f-a. A. Schematic showing
DNA-construct
SM +/- (hdhfr-yfcu)
5’ target
3’ target
pL1454
720 bp
the generation of mutant ∆fabb/f-a (1345cl1). The
4256
4255
DNA-construct pL1454 is aimed at disruption of target
5’ target
3’ target
fabb/f orf
fabb/f locus
960 bp
1200 bp
990 bp
gene by double cross-over homologous recombination.
4253
L1858
L379
L1511
4239
4254
Disrupted locus
The sequence of the primers to amplify the 5’- and
5’ target
SM +/- (hdhfr-yfcu)
3’ target
3’-target regions of the genes are shown in Table S1.
Primers for diagnostic PCR (Table S1) and size of the
Δfabb/f-a
B
C
Δfabb/f-a
WT
Chr
PCR DNA fragments are shown. B. Diagnostic PCR for
9
M 5’ 3’ O M 5’ 3’ O
kb
confirmation of correct disruption of fabb/f in mutant
1
0.5
∆fabb/f-a. SM: selectable marker (primers L379/
7
L1511); 5’-integration event (primers 4253/L1858);
3’-interation event (primers 4239/4254); ORF (primers
4255/4256). See Table S1 for the sequence of the primers. C. Southern analysis of PFG-separated chromosomes
of mutant ∆fabb/f-a. This mutant has been generated in the reference P. berghei ANKA line cl15cy1. Hybridization
with the 3’-UTR dhfr/ts probe recognizes the integrated construct on chromosome 9 and the endogenous dhfr/ts
gene located on chromosome 7.
A
A
Figure S3. Generation and genotype analyses of P.
berghei mutant; ∆fabb/f-b. A. Schematic showing the
1st PCR
5’ target
3’ target
generation of mutant ∆fabb/f-b (1704cl1). The DNA4661
4662
5’ target
3’ target
2nd PCR
construct pL1662 is aimed at disruption of target gene
SM (hdhfr)
S
A
Digested with Asp718, ScaI and DpnI
Final DNA construct
by double cross-over homologous recombination.
SM (hdhfr)
5’ target
3’ target
pL1662
The construct was generated by an adapted ‘AnchorSM (hdhfr)
5’ target
3’ target
tagging’ PCR-based method employing a 2-step PCR
DNA construct
720 bp
pL1662
4256
4255
reaction. In the first PCR step two-flanking fragments
5’ target fabb/f orf
3’ target
fabb/f locus
of fabb/f were amplified from genomic DNA with the
1215 bp
1009 bp
1157 bp
3187 4771
5808
4770 L307C
5809
primers 5804/5805 (5’) and 5806/5807 (3’). Both primer
Disruption locus
SM (hdhfr)
5’ target
3’ target
5805 and 5806 have 5’-terminal extensions homologues
to the hdhfr selectable marker cassette (SM) obtained
B
C
Δfabb/f-b
from plasmid pL0040 by digestion with restriction
Chr
Δfabb/f-b
WT
9
M 5’ 3’ O
M 5’ 3’ O
enzymes XhoI and NotI. Primers 5804 and 5807 have
kb
2
5’-terminal overhang with an anchor-tag suitable
7
1
for the second PCR step. In this step the fragments
were annealed to either side of the SM with anchor3
tag primers 4661/4662, resulting in the second PCR
fragment. To remove the ‘anchor’, the second PCR fragment was digested with Asp718 and ScaI as primer 5804
contained an Asp718 restriction enzyme site and 5807 contained a ScaI site. See Table S1 for the sequence of the
primers. B. Diagnostic PCR for confirmation of correct disruption of fabb/f in mutant ∆fabb/f-b. SM: selectable
marker (primers L307C/3187); 5’-integration event (primers 5808/4470); 3’-interation event (primers 4471/5809);
ORF (primers 4255/4256). See Table S1 for the sequence of the primers. C. Southern analysis of PFG-separated
chromosomes of mutant ∆fabb/f-b. This mutant has been generated in the reference P. berghei ANKA PbGFPLuccon which has a gfp-luciferase gene integrated into the silent 230p locus (PBANKA_030600) on chromosome 3.
Hybridization with the 3’-UTR dhfr/ts probe recognizes the integrated construct on chromosome 9, the reporter
GFP-Luccon construct on chromosome 3, and the endogenous
5804
5805
5806
5807
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 149
BF
αMSP1
αEXP1
Hoechst
Figure S4. IFA analysis of the few
∆p52+p36 infected hepatocytes
(Huh7) visible at 48hpi. Three
∆p52+p36 infected hepatocytes
are compared with a control WT
infected hepatocytes. Staining
with anti-MSP1 antibodies (red)
identifies maturing merozoites
inside the liver schizont;
anti-PbEXP1
recognize
the
parasitophorous vacuole (green)
and is clearly visible around only
WT parasites and is absent in all
∆p52+p36 infected cells. Nuclei
are stained with Hoechst-33342.
Merge
WT
10µm
Δp52+p36
Δp52+p36
Δp52+p36
A
Short exposure
Merge
αMSP1 / αEXP1
αMSP1
B
(%)
80
60
P=0.01
P<0.001
40
20
10um
0
MSP++
54hpi
48hpi
Short exposure
Merge
αMSP1 / αEXP1
αMSP1
Long exposure
Merge
αMSP1/ αEXP1
αMSP1
MSP+
MSP+ /
MSP-
MSP+
MSP-
Figure S5 A. MSP1 IFA expression criteria of liver-stage parasites at 54hpi. Parasites are stained with anti-MSP1 (red)
and anti EXP1 (green)-antibodies. Nuclei are stained with Hoechst-33342. MSP1++: MSP1 staining visible after short
exposure (0.5 sec); MSP +: MSP1 staining only visible after long exposure (4 sec); MSP-: MSP1 staining not visible
even after long exposure (4 sec), using a Leica DFC 420C camera and ebq 100 lamp, see Material and Methods
for details. B. The percentage of (strongly; i.e. MSP++) MSP1 expressing liver stage parasites was determined at
48hpi and 54hpi (see Figure 2C). There are significantly more MSP++ positive WT infected hepatocytes than MSP++
Δfabb/f infected hepatocytes at both 48 and 54hpi (using a paired student t-test; p<0.001 at 48hpi and p=0.01 at
54hpi; GraphPad Prism 5® software).
150 l Chapter 7
Table S1 List of primers and primer sequences used in this study
Table S1: Primers used in this study
Name
Sequence
Primers for generation of the ∆p52+p36 target regions (for pL1164) (restriction sites are shown in red)
∆p52+p36
L903
CGATCGATGAATAATAGTAAATGATGAAACGTCG
∆p52+p36
L904
CCCAAGCTTAATTACGTCCCCTGGATATGC
∆p52+p36
L864
GGATATCCGATTTAGCATCTCATCATGG
∆p52+p36
L865
CGGGGTACCTGGTACTGCGAAAATCACACC
Restriction site
Description
ClaI
HindIII
EcoRV
KpnI
∆p52+p36
∆p52+p36
∆p52+p36
∆p52+p36
Primers for confirmation PCR of the integration event in ∆p52+p36
∆p52+p36
L1389
ATTTTGCAACAATTTTATTCTTGG
∆p52+p36
L313
ACGCATTATATGAGTTCATTTTAC
∆p52+p36
4239
GATTTTTAAAATGTTTATAATATGATTAGC
∆p52+p36
TATTTGGGTATGCCGTGAGG
4702
∆p52+p36
L775
GAAACAATATGAGTTCGCACGC
∆p52+p36
L1212
TATATTGCTAGTCCTTTGTTCC
∆p52+p36
GGACAGATTGAACATCGTCG
4501
∆p52+p36
GATCACATTCTTCAGCTGGTC
4502
Primers for generation of the ∆fabb/f target regions (for pL1454) (restriction sites are shown in red)
GCGCGGTACCACATAAATTTGTACAAAACTTAAATGA
∆fabb/f
4194
GCGCGGATCCGATATGTATTTATTTCACACACTTTAT
∆fabb/f
4195
GCGCGAATTCATTTATTAGTTGATATTATTATTTATA
∆fabb/f
4196
GCGCCCCGGGTTTATATGTATATCTCATATAAATGGT
∆fabb/f
4197
KpnI
BamHI
EcoRI
XmaI
Primers for confirmation PCR of the intergration even in ∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
4253
ATTTCCTCTTTTTCTGCTTTTTGGTTCACC
∆fabb/f
L1858
ATGCACAAAAAAAAATATGCACAC
∆fabb/f
4239
GATTTTTAAAATGTTTATAATATGATTAGC
∆fabb/f
4254
TATATGTATATATGATTAATCCATAACCC
∆fabb/f
4255
GAGGAATTTCTATTGGTATGTTAAGTGCATGCG
∆fabb/f
4256
ATTTAATGAAAAATCAATATTCTGTTCTGAGGG
∆fabb/f
L379
GGCAAGAACGGGGACCTG
∆fabb/f
L1511
CGATTCACCAGCTCTGAC
Gene models
∆p52+p36 5' integration F
∆p52+p36 5' integration R from KO construct pL1164
∆p52+p36 3' integration F from KO construct pL1164
∆p52+p36 3' integration R
∆p52+p36 intergenic region F
∆p52+p36 p36 orf R
tgdhfr/ts F
tgdhfr/ts R
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
5' target F
5'target R
3' target F
3' target R
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
hdhfr F
yfcu R
5' integration F
5' integration R from KO construct
3' integration F from KO construct
3' integration R
orf F
orf R
PBANKA_112510
Primers for the Anchor-tagging PCR-based method: Generation of ∆fabb/f target regions (for pL1662) (restriction sites are shown in red; Anchor tags are shown in blue)
GAACTCGTACTCCTTGGTGACGGTACCGGTAATGGATGTGTACACAAAAG
∆fabb/f
5804
Asp718
∆fabb/f 5' target F
CATCTACAAGCATCGTCGACCTCCACACTGTATACAGGACACTTG
∆fabb/f
5805
∆fabb/f 5'target R
CCTTCAATTTCGGATCCACTAGCATGGCATCTTTCTCGCACAC
∆fabb/f
5806
∆fabb/f 3' target F
AGGTTGGTCATTGACACTCAGCAGTACTTGATAACCTATGCACTCAAGG
∆fabb/f
5807
ScaI
∆fabb/f 3' target R
∆fabb/f
GAACTCGTACTCCTTGGTGACG
4661
for 2nd PCR
∆fabb/f
AGGTTGGTCATTGACACTCAGC
4662
for 2nd PCR
Primers for confirmation PCR of the integration event in ∆fabb/f (Anchor tags are shown in blue)
∆fabb/f
ACTAATGCACACTGCAGTTAC
5808
∆fabb/f
CATCTACAAGCATCGTCGACCTC
4770
∆fabb/f
GGGTTGTATAATACCTTCTTCG
5809
∆fabb/f
CCTTCAATTTCGGATCCACTAG
4771
∆fabb/f
L307C
GCTTAATTCTTTTCGAGCTC
∆fabb/f
3187
GTGTCACTTTCAAAGTCTTGC
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
∆fabb/f
hdhfr F
hdhfr R
Primers for RT-PCR
RT-PCR
6301
RT-PCR
6302
RT-PCR
6303
RT-PCR
6304
RT-PCR
6305
RT-PCR
6306
RT-PCR
6140
RT-PCR
6310
RT-PCR
6139
RT-PCR
6311
RT-PCR
6312
RT-PCR
6313
CS for RT primer
CS F for RT-PCR
CS R for RT-PCR
p52 for RT primer
p52 F for RT-PCR
p52 R for RT-PCR
p36 for RT primer
p36 F for RT-PCR
p36 R for RT-PCR
fabb/f for RT primer
fabb/f F for RT-PCR
fabb/f R for RT-PCR
ATACCAGAACCACATGTTACG
CTCTACTTCCAGGATATGGAC
CATTGAGACCATTCCTCTGTG
CATTTCTTTTGCATGAGCAAC
CCTAATACGACCTTAGGACAC
AACATCATTACTCGGATCTGG
TATTGCTAGTCCTTTGTTCCC
TCCAACGGGGAATTGTAGTG
GTCCCTTTCTATCTCATTAGG
GCTCCTATGCAATGACCTGTC
GACTTCCAGAGTTGTATGCAC
ATCGGATACACTTATGTTGGC
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
5' target F
5'target R
3' target F
3' target R
5' integration F
5' integration R from KO construct
3' integration F from KO construct
3' integration R
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_100220 and PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_040320
PBANKA_040320
PBANKA_040320
PBANKA_100220
PBANKA_100220
PBANKA_100220
PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_100210
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
PBANKA_112510
Table S2. Multiplication rate of asexual blood stages and gametocyte production of different P. berghei GAP.
GAP
∆p52+p36-a
∆p52+p36-b
∆fabb/f-a
∆fabb/f-b
WT (ANKA)
Line number
795cl1
1409cl1
1345cl1
1704cl1
in vivo multiplication rate 1
Gametocyte production2 %
(mean + SD)
10 (0) n=3
10 (0) n=6
10 (0) n=3
10 (0) n=2
18.4 (1.9)
19.0 (3.0)
20.3 (2.3)
17.9 (2.8)
10 (0) n=10
Range: 15-25
The mean values and standard deviations (between brackets) are shown for the mutant lines. For the wild
type parasites the range is shown of values obtained with 10 infections. 1The multiplication rate of asexual
blood stages per 24h was determined in mice infected with a single parasite; n is the number of mice
infected. 2Gametocyte production is the percentage of blood stage parasites that develop into gametocytes
under standardized in vivo conditions
Assessing attenuation of Plasmodium GAPs l 151
Table S3: Protection of BALB/c and C57BL/6 mice after immunization with Δp52+p36 GAPs
Mice
GAP
Immn
dose
BALB/c
Δp52+p36
50K
Δp52+p36
25K
Δp52+p36
10K
Δp52+p36gfp::luc
10K
Δp52+p36
5K
Δp52+p36gfp::luc
5K
Δp52+p36gfp::luc
1K
Δp52+p36
Δp52+p36gfp::luc
Δp52+p36
50K
50K
50/20/20Kb
C57BL/6
Challenge after
Immn days
(re-challenge)
10d
(90d)
(180d)
10d
(90d)
(180d)
10d
(90d)
(180d)
10d
(90d)
(180d)
10d
(90d)
(180d)
10d
(180d)
10d
(180d)
10d
10d
180d
Protected
/infected
No. of mice
(re-challenge)
10/10
(10/10)
(10/10)
10/10
(10/10)
(10/10)
10/10
(10/10)
(10/10)
10/10
(10/10)
(10/10)
10/10
(10/10)
(10/10)
10/10
(10/10)
8/9
(5/5)
0/5
0/5
6/7c
Pre-patency
days
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
6
6
6
7c
Wt challenge constitutes 10K sporozoites delivered i.v.
immunization regiment (Immn): 50K sporozoites i.v. day0 followed by a boost of 20K sporozoites i.v. at day 7
and day 14. c40 mice were exposed to the 50/20/20K immunization regiment, only 7 mice remained bloodstage negative and these mice then received their first challenge with WT parasites after 6 months (10K
sporozoites IV), 6/7 mice were protected and 1 mouse developed a patent blood stage infection at day 7.
a
b
Chapter 8
Removal of heterologous sequences from
Plasmodium falciparum mutants using
FLPe-Recombinase
Ben C.L. van Schaijk1, Martijn W. Vos1, Chris J. Janse2, Robert W. Sauerwein1,
Shahid M. Khan2
Department of Medical Microbiology, Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Center, Nijmegen, Netherlands
Leiden Malaria Research Group, Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden,
Netherlands
1
2
PloS ONE. 2010;3(11)e15121
154 l Chapter 8
Abstract
Genetically-modified mutants are now indispensable Plasmodium gene-function
reagents, which are also being pursued as genetically attenuated parasite vaccines.
Currently, the generation of transgenic malaria-parasites requires the use of drugresistance markers. Here we present the development of an FRT/FLP-recombinase
system that enables the generation of transgenic parasites free of resistance genes. We
demonstrate in the human malaria parasite, P. falciparum, the complete and efficient
removal of the introduced resistance gene. We targeted two neighbouring genes,
p52 and p36, using a construct that has a selectable marker cassette flanked by FRTsequences. This permitted the subsequent removal of the selectable marker cassette by
transient transfection of a plasmid that expressed a 37°C thermostable and enhanced
FLP-recombinase. This method of removing heterologous DNA sequences from the
genome opens up new possibilities in Plasmodium research to sequentially target
multiple genes and for using genetically-modified parasites as live, attenuated malaria
vaccines.
Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 155
Introduction
The genomes of several different Plasmodium species are either completely sequenced,
or near to completion. This includes those of the most important human malaria
parasites, P. falciparum and P. vivax, as well as three closely related rodent species;
P. chabaudi, P. yoelii and P. berghei [1,2,3,4]. Comparative analyses of Plasmodium
genomes and genomes of other organisms have greatly improved the identification
and assignation of putative functions to Plasmodium genes, and these analyses have
revealed that about 50% of malaria parasites genes cannot be assigned a function by
homology and it is therefore likely that many of these genes perform functions that
are unique to Plasmodium. In the absence of efficient forward genetic screens, reverse
genetics, specifically targeted gene deletion and phenotype analysis, is currently the
front line methodology to study Plasmodium specific gene function [5]. Currently, the
permanent removal of genes from the human parasite Plasmodium falciparum requires
the targeted integration of plasmids into the genome by double cross-over homologous
recombination. This approach uses a ‘positive-negative’ selection strategy and results in
the introduction of drug resistance-markers into the genome [6]. Specifically, transgenic
parasites that have the targeting construct integrated by single-cross over recombination
are first selected using one of a limited set of resistance markers and drug combinations
[5,6,7,8]. Subsequently, these parasites are subjected to ‘negative’ drug selection to select
for mutants that have permanently removed the gene of interest by an internal double
cross-over recombination event [6,9]. The limited number of resistance markers in P.
falciparum severely compromises the possibilities for sequential genetic modifications.
As a result no P. falciparum mutants have currently been reported where two or more
genes have been targeted by sequential transfection procedures.
A recent development using reverse genetics in rodent parasites has been the generation
and analysis of ‘attenuated’ parasites engineered through gene-deletion. These genetically
attenuated parasites (GAP) can either become developmentally arrested subsequent
to invasion of liver cells [10] or infections with those GAPs that are associated with a
marked decrease in the virulence in the host [11,12,13]. A number of these lines are now
being tested and used in research aimed at developing malaria vaccines that consist of
attenuated parasites. The translation of such genetically modified parasites into human
vaccines may require the removal of resistance markers from the parasites genome.
156 l Chapter 8
Specifically, multiple gene deletions may be necessary to reach complete attenuation
and removal of resistance markers is essential in light of regulations governing the use of
genetically attenuated organisms in vaccines [14,15]. Here we report on the development
of an efficient FLP recombinase system that in combination with the positive-negative
drug selection strategy permits the generation of P. falciparum gene deletion mutants
lacking resistance markers. The yeast FLP recombinase recognizes a 34 nucleotide FLP
recognition target (FRT) site and excises any intermediate DNA sequences located
between two identically oriented FRT sites (referred to FRTed sequence) [16]. The FLP/
FRT system has been previously applied in Plasmodium for generation of a ‘conditional
knock-out’ system for deleting genes from the rodent parasite P. berghei in mosquito
stages [17,18,19]. However, using the FLP/FRT system to efficiently delete genes in blood
stage parasites has not been reported.
In this paper we now describe the removal of the resistance marker using a 37°C
thermostable enhanced FLP recombinase from a parasite in which the neighbouring
genes p52 and p36 were deleted. This mutant is actively being pursued as a potential
GAP for use in humans, using the standard approach of generation gene deletion
mutants [20,21]. The ability to remove resistance markers from the P. falciparum mutant
genome will be important not only for research into parasite gene function but also
for generating genetically-modified parasites that may serve as live, attenuated malaria
vaccines.
Results
Generation of a gene deletion ‘FRT’ targeting construct
for P. falciparum
In order to permit removal of resistance markers from the genome of P. falciparum
during blood-stage culture, we introduced 2 FRT sites into the standard positive-negative
transfection construct (pHHT-FCU) [9] along with gene integration sequences designed
to simultaneously target the P. falciparum paralogous genes, p52 and p36, resulting in
the construct, pHHT-FRT-Pf5236 (Figure 1A). The genes p52 and p36 are a closely related
Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 157
and paralogous pair of genes which are located in tandem on chromosome 4 in the P.
falciparum genome, separated by only 1.4 kb [20,21,22,23,24]. In the pHHT-FRT-Pf5236
construct the FRT sites have been positioned to flank the two p52/p36 gene-targeting
regions in an identical orientation (Figure 1A). This orientation should enable FLPmediated excision of the hdhfr-resistance cassette located between the FRT sites. We
further modified this vector by replacing the hdhfr resistance marker for a hdhfr::gfp
fusion gene, thereby producing the construct pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf5236 (Figure 1A). The
hdhfr::gfp fusion gene permits both the selection of transformed parasites by WR99210
treatment and the visualization of transformed parasites by fluorescent microscopy.
Generation and characterization of FRT containing
Δp5236 and Δp5236gfp parasites
The constructs pHHT-FRT-Pf5236 and pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf5236 were independently
transfected into P. falciparum blood stages using electroporation [25]. In these
experiments double-cross over gene deletion mutants were selected (referred to
as Δp5236 and Δp5236gfp) by standard positive -negative selection using the drugs
WR99210 and 5-FC respectively [9]. The correct integration of the two constructs into
the genome of parasites that had undergone positive and negative drug selection was
analysed using an adapted long-range PCR (LR-PCR) method and Southern analysis. The
ability to amplify >5kb DNA sequences by LR-PCR permits us to now rapidly screen the
genotypes in parental populations of transfected P. falciparum parasites (see Material and
Methods for details of the optimized LR-PCR method). Using both LR-PCR and Southern
analysis we confirmed that deletion of p52/p36 by double cross-over integration of
the targeting constructs had occurred (Figure 1B, C). Next, Δp5236gfp parasites were
analyzed by fluorescence microscopy and all parasites displayed GFP-expression (Figure
1D, top panels).
Unlike in conventional P. falciparum gene deletion transfection experiments parasite
cloning was not performed at this stage and we proceeded directly with the next
step, specifically the removal of the resistance marker between the 2 FRT sites from
the genome of Δp5236 and Δp5236gfp parasites. For excision of the FRTed sequence,
we generated two additional plasmids for transient expression of FLP after episomal
transfection into the FRT-containing parasites.
158 l Chapter 8
A
4.8kb
p52
p36
WT locus
EB
p1 BH
t-p52
p2 B
3’hrp2
FRT
hdhfr::gfp
H
fcu
5’hsp86
hdhfr::gfp
FRT
pHHT-FRT-(GFP)Pf5236
FRT
3’pbdt
Δp52
p1 B H
t-p36
5’cam
H
p1 B H
Δp36
Δp5236gfp
FRT
5.2kb
p2 B
+ pMV-FLPe
FRT
p2 B
Δp5236gfp*FLPe
E
T
W
Δp
52
36
Δp gfp
52
3
Δp 6
52
36
gf
p*
F
T
Δp
52
C
W
B
3
Δp 6gfp
52
3
Δp 6
52
36
Δp gfp
52
*F
LP
3
Δp 6gf
p
52
*
36 FLP
*F
e
LP
e
LP
e
2.3kb
4.0kb
p52
2.0kb
4.8kb
2.3kb
D
Merge
Hoechst
GFP
4.4kb
p36
2.3kb
BF
Δp5236gfp
Δp5236gfp*FLPe
10 µm
Figure 1. FLPe mediated excision of resistance markers from P. falciparum gene deletion mutants. A.
Schematic representation of the genomic locus of wild-type (WT), gene deletion mutant Δp5236gfp before and
after removal of the hdhfr::gfp resistance marker. The construct (pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf5236) for targeting deletion
of the p52 and p36 genes contains the two FRT sequences (red triangles) that are recognized by FLP. P1, P2:
primer pairs for LR-PCR analysis; B (BclI),H (HindIII), E(EcoRI): restriction sites used for Southern analysis; cam:
calmodulin; hrp: histidine rich protein; hsp: heatshock protein; fcu: cytosine deaminase/uracil phosphoribosyltransferase; pbdt: P.berghei dhfr terminator. B. Long range PCR analysis of genomic DNA from WT and mutants
Δp5236 and Δp5236gfp before and after transfection with constructs containing FLP or FLPe, confirming
removal of the hdhfr::gfp resistance marker in FLPe-transfected parasites. See A for location of the primers
p1 and p2 and the expected product sizes (i.e. WT, 4.8kb; Δp5236, 4.6kb; Δp5236gfp, 5.2kb; Δp5236gfp*FLPe
and Δp5236*FLPe, 2.3kb). C. Southern analysis of restricted genomic DNA from WT and mutants before and
after transfection with constructs containing FLPe, confirming removal of the hdhfr::gfp resistance marker in
the FLPe-transfected Δp5236gfp mutant. Upper panel: DNA was digested with HindIII/EcoRI (probed with p52
targeting sequence); Lower panel DNA digested with BclI (probed with p36 targeting sequence). D. Analysis of
GFP expression in mutant Δp5236gfp before and after transfection with constructs containing FLPe, confirming
removal of the hdhfr::gfp resistance marker in the FLPe-transfected parasites.
Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 159
Generation of FLP recombinase containing plasmids and
removal of resistance genes from Δp5236 and Δp5236gfp
parasites
Two plasmids were generated that contain an FLP recombinase under the control of the
hsp86 promoter and the blasticidin-S-deaminase (bsd) resistance marker (see Material
and Methods and Figure S1A). The first construct, we term pMV-FLP, was constructed
by inserting the standard FLP encoding gene under control of the constitutive P.
falciparum hsp86 promoter (HSP86-FLP-PBDT) into the pBSII-KS+ plasmid along with the
positive selection marker bsd-cassette under control of the P. falciparum hrp3 promoter
(5’HRPIII-BSD-3’HRPII) derived from pCMB-BSD [7]. The second construct, pMV-FLPe,
was essentially identical to pMV-FLP except that the standard FLP encoding gene was
replaced by a gene encoding FLPe. This plasmid was termed pMV-FLPe. Whereas FLP,
being derived from yeast, has an enzymatic optimal temperature around 30°C [26], FLPe
is a 37°C thermostable enhanced allozyme of FLP recombinase [27].
The Δp5236 and Δp5236gfp mutant parasites were transfected with either the FLP or
the FLPe containing plasmid and transformed parasites were selected by blasticidin
treatment [7]. The transformed parasites became apparent in the cultures between
day 6-13 after transfection. Interestingly, after transfection with these constructs we
observed that both these enzymes, FLP and FLPe, had an effect on growth of asexual
blood stage parasite (for more details please see Supplementary Figure 1B and legends).
When we analysed the genotype of FLP-transfected parasites after blasticidin selection
we found evidence that in a small percentage of parasites DNA sequences, including
the resistance genes, between the FRT sites (i.e. ‘FRTed’ sequence) had been removed.
LR-PCR of Δp5236gfp parasites, after FLP plasmid transfection, amplified two fragments
of 5.2 kb and 2.3kb, consistent with the retention of the selection marker and FRTmediated recombination, respectively (Figure 1B). The 2.3kb fragment was cloned and
sequenced which confirmed the correct excision of the FRTed sequence (data not shown).
However, the 2.3kb PCR fragment was very faint whereas the 5.2kb fragment of the
region containing the FRTed sequence was rapidly amplified (Figure 1C), indicating that
most parasites still contained the FRTed sequence. This was confirmed by fluorescence
microscopy as more than 99% of the FLP-transfected parasites were GFP-positive. As the
optimal temperature for FLP is 30°C [28], we also cultured the FLP-transfected parasites
160 l Chapter 8
at 30°C for intermittent periods (4-48 hours). However, at 30°C no increase in removal of
the FRTed sequences was detected as demonstrated by a similar high proportion (>99%)
of GFP-expressing parasites (data not shown).
In contrast to the FLP-transfected parasites, no GFP-positive parasites were visible in the
parasite populations after transfection with the FLPe-containing plasmids (Figure 1D),
indicating the efficient removal of the FRTed resistance marker cassette. Further, LR-PCR
revealed only the 2.3kb band, consistent with full removal of the FRTed sequence and we
were unable to detect the 5.2kb fragment of parasites that retained the FRTed sequence.
These results indicate that FLPe mediated recombination between the FRT sites is highly
efficient resulting in removal of the FRTed sequences in nearly 100% of the parasites.
FLPe-transfected parasites were cloned by the method of limiting dilution and Southern
analysis of cloned parasites confirmed correct excision between the FRT sequences,
resulting in excision of drug selectable marker and gfp fusion cassette (Figure 1C). These
results demonstrate that the FLPe-recombinase system permits the efficient generation
of gene deletion mutants lacking resistance markers.
Analysis of drug sensitivity and gametocyte production in
mutants after FLP-mediated removal of resistance genes
We next analyzed if the transfected parasites had retained their capacity to produce
gametocytes. The loss of gametocyte production has been reported to frequently
occur during prolonged periods of in vitro cultivation and manipulation of P. falciparum
asexual blood stages [29]. A stable gametocyte production is of particular importance
for Δp5236 parasites, which are being developed as potential attenuated sporozoite
vaccines. For both Δp5236*FLPe and Δp5236gfp*FLPe, gametocyte production, as
determined by counting stage II and stage IV-V gametocytes, as well as male gamete
formation as determined by counting exflagellation centres was comparable to wild-type
(NF54) parasites (Table 1).
In order to create multiple gene deletions within the same parasite, it is critical that
after the action of FLPe mutant parasites must regain sensitivity to the drugs used
during selection. This can only be achieved if the hdhfr selection marker is completely
absent from the parasite genome and that the FLPe/bsd containing plasmid is lost from
the parasites after release of the drug pressure. The loss of these plasmids is thought
Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 161
Table 1. Gametocyte production and male gamete formation (exflagellation) of wild type (WT)
and mutants, Δp5236 and Δp5236gfp, before and after FLPe action
Parasite line
No of gametocytes
stage II (range)1
No of gametocytes
stage IV-V (range)1
Exflagellation2
WT
10 (2-24)
50 (39-58)
++
ΔP5236
11(4-17)
52(44-59)
++
ΔP5236GFP
11(8-15)
49(8-65)
++
ΔP5236*FLPe
11(6-15)
67(54-79)
++
ΔP5236GFP*FLPe
9(2-23)
62 (50-72)
++
Number of gametocytes per 1000 erythrocytes counted in Giemsa stained thin blood smears
Exflagellation centers counted in wet mounted preparations of stimulated gametocyte cultures at 400x
magnification using a light microscope; ++ score = >10 exflagellation centers per microscope field.
1
2
to happen rapidly in parasites after the release of blasticidin pressure due to uneven
segregation of such DNA elements into daughter merozoites. However, it has been
reported that parasites can spontaneously acquire blasticidin resistance when exposed
to sustained blasticidin treatment independent of the bsd-selectable marker [30]. We
therefore tested the sensitivity of blood stages to both blasticidin and WR99210 using
standard drug-susceptibility assays. We demonstrate that parasites have not acquired
blasticidin resistance (Figure 2A). In addition the Δp5236gfp*FLPe parasites had regained
the sensitivity to WR99210 after the recombinase treatment (Figure 2B).
Generation of a generic gene-deletion construct
containing FRT sites
We have generated a ‘standardised’ FRT gene-deletion construct, which contains FRT
sites next to the gene targeting regions. These gene targeting regions can easily be
exchanged for any gene of interest (see Supplementary Figure 1C). This generic construct
is an adapted version of the standard construct pHHT-FCU (see Material and Methods
for construct details) that has two P52 target regions introduced into SacII/HpaI digested
pHHT-FCU (5’ -target region) and into NcoI/EcoRI digested pHHT-FCU (3’-target region).
162 l Chapter 8
A
WT
ΔP5236gfp
Δp5236gfp*FLPe
BSD[µg/ml]
% Inhibition
% Inhibition
B
WT
ΔP5236gfp
Δp5236gfp*FLPe
WR99210[nM]
Figure 2. Drug sensitivity of wild type (WT) and Δp5236gfp parasites.Drug sensitivity to A. blasticidin and
B. WR99210 of blood stages of WT and mutant Δp5236gfp parasites before and after transfection with
constructs containing FLPe.
The two FRT sites reside just next to the targeting regions and flank the selectable marker.
Each target region contains 4 unique restriction sites; for the 5’target region BsiWI/MluI,
BssHII/SacII and for the 3’target region NcoI/NheI, KpnI/XmaI (Supplementary Figure 1C).
Discussion
In the absence of efficient forward genetic screens in malaria research, the targeted
deletion/mutation of Plasmodium genes is now one of the most important methodologies
to study the function of malaria parasite genes. However, the low efficiency of targeted
gene deletion, the slow process of selecting gene deletion mutants and the limited number
of drug-resistance markers greatly limits the analysis of Plasmodium genes. This analysis
is of particular importance as more than 50% of Plasmodium genes have no homologs in
other species (annotated ‘unknown function’) and the proteins encoded by a number of
these genes maybe attractive targets for drugs or vaccines. To date there are no reported
P. falciparum mutants that have had multiple, non-neighbouring, genes deleted. Here
we describe a method of generating gene deletions in P. falciparum that makes use of
the yeast FLP-recombinase enzyme to remove introduced resistance-markers and other
plasmid DNA sequences from the mutants. This methodology facilitates the generation
of multiple gene deletions or gene mutations in P. falciparum which is important in
uncovering Plasmodium specific functions and processes. Moreover, this technique
facilitates the generation of genetically attenuated parasites (GAP) permitting the
Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 163
removal of multiple genes. Gene deletion mutants of human malaria parasites, which
completely arrest during their development inside hepatocytes, are currently being
intensely investigated as potential whole-organism malaria vaccines [10,20,21].
An advantage of the high efficiency of removal of FRTed sequences (>99%) from the
mutant parasite genome by FLPe is that it is not necessary to clone the parasites before
transfection with the FLPe-plasmid, thereby reducing the time for generation of the
desired mutants. Consequently, the whole procedure of generating a gene-deletion
mutant without resistance marker takes 18 weeks as compared to 15 weeks it currently
takes to generate (double cross-over) gene deletion mutants with a selectable marker. In
Figure 3 we show a schematic representation detailing and comparing the standard gene
deletion with the FRT/FLPe deletion-recycling method described in this paper (Figure 3).
The use of the FLP/FRT system for gene removal in Plasmodium has been previously
reported for the rodent parasite, P. berghei. However, this strategy permits deletion
of genes only during development of the parasite in the mosquito. The method also
consists of inserting FRT sites around the locus of interest in a parasite that expresses
FLP recombinase driven from a mosquito stage-specific promoter [17,18,19]. The system
makes use of either FLP or a low-activity FLP enzyme, termed FLPL. The activity of FLPL is
greatly reduced at 37°C and maintained at this reduced level at 20°C –25°C, temperatures
permissive for parasite development in the mosquito. Because this strategy to delete
genes requires passage of the parasites through mosquitoes it will be extremely difficult
to adapt this methodology to P. falciparum. Attempts to adapt the FLP or FLPL based
system to delete genes during blood stage development have so far been unsuccessful.
Analysis in blood stage of P. berghei only very low recombination efficiencies have
been observed after prolonged cultivation in either FLP- or FLPL-expressing parasites at
temperatures ranging from 21-37°C (personal observations; M.R. van Dijk and A.P. Waters
personal communication). This low level of excision in P. berghei blood stages mediated
by FLP or FLPL was comparable to that what we have observed with FLP-based excision
of FRTed sequences in P. falciparum blood stages. The strong increase in recombination
(>99%) observed with FLPe indicates that the use of the 37°C variant of FLP (i.e. FLPe)
is the most important adaptation permitting efficient excision of heterologous DNA
sequences. Interestingly we found that both FLP and FLPe had an ‘off target’ effect on
blood stage development in culture, resulting in a reduced growth rate and/or arrest in
parasite development. However, a beneficial side-effect of the growth delay of parasites
containing FLPe-episomes is that those parasites that lose the FLP-plasmid after removal
164 l Chapter 8
Figure 3. Schematic representation
of the generation of FLPe-mediated
‘resistance marker-free’ P. falciparum
Time
pHHT-FRT
Schedule
pHHT-FRT-(GFP)
(weeks)
P. falciparum
hdhfr::gfp
mutants. Standard gene deletion by
Synchronized ring
culture
0 Electroporation;
double cross-over (DXO) homologous
stage Wt parasites
3 Positive selection;
Electroporation
7 Cycling;
recombination (left hand side) is
10 Negative selection
Analyze by ‘LR-PCR’
MV-FLPe
compared to gene deletion using the
Day 0
flpe
FLPe-recombinase method described
bsdPOS SELECTION
GFP positive DXO
ringstage parasites
Drug-cycling
in this paper (right hand side). Both
11 Electroporation and
Blasticidin selection
methods are essentially identical
Remove blasticidin
13
when parasitemia
up to 10 weeks. First transformed
Week 7 (SXO)
is positive
parasites are treated by on/off cycling
Analyze for loss of GFP
14
NEG SELECTION
and by ‘LR-PCR’
with the antimalarial drug WR99210
Clone parasites without
Time
15
pHHT-FRT
(POS SELECTION) to select for mutant
Schedule
drugs to lose MV-FLPe
Week 10 (DXO)
(weeks)
hdhfr::gfp
GFP negative DXO
parasites where the plasmid has
Re-transfect parasites PCR/Southern
Synchronized ring PCR/Southern
cloned parasites
0 Electroporation;
18 to target another gene
stage Wt parasites
3 Positive selection;
of interest
become integrated into the genome
Electroporation
7 Cycling;
Cloning
10 Negative selection
Analyze by ‘LR-PCR’
by single cross-over (SXO) homologous
MV-FLPe
GFP pos
pMV-FLPeflpe
recombination. Next negative drug
bsd
GFP positive DXO
selection (NEG SELECTION) using
ringstage parasites
BSD SELECTION
11 Electroporation and
Week 15
Blasticidin selection
the drug 5-FC is applied to select for
Cloning
Remove blasticidin
Genotype
13
when parasitemia
those parasites where an internal
is positive
recombination
(DXO)
between
+SM
Analyze for loss of GFP
14
and by ‘LR-PCR’
plasmid and genomic sequences
Clone parasites without
15
drugs to lose MV-FLPe
has occurred and the target gene is
Week 18
GFP negative DXO
Re-transfect parasites
deleted. At this stage all transformed
cloned parasites
Genotype
18 to target another gene
of interest
GFP neg
parasites are GFP positive as the
-SM
hdhfr-resistance marker is fused to
GFP. At this point conventional DXO
gene deletion parasites are cloned by a method of limiting dilution. At week 15 cloned parasites still
containing the resistance marker (+SM; shown in the standard DXO genotype schematic as a green arrow)
can be expanded. In the FLPe recombinase method the gene deletion mutants selected after positive/
negative selection are not cloned but immediately transformed with a plasmid encoding the enhanced
FLP recombinase (pMV-FLPe). This plasmid is maintained episomally through blasticidin selection (BSD
SELECTION) for one week after which BSD selection is released and once these parasites are detected in
culture they are cloned by limiting dilution. At week 18, only 3 weeks longer than standard method, these
resistance marker–free parasites can be expanded. Removal of the resistance marker is confirmed by the
absence of GFP-expression as recombination between the introduced FRT sites (red triangles) has occurred
removing plasmid, gfp and drug resistance marker sequences (-SM).
Standard DXO
gene deletion
FLPe-mediated
gene deletion
of BSD selection will outgrow the parasites that still retain FLPe-episomes. This then
results in the enhancement of selection of episome-free parasites with the resistance
marker removed. Indeed, we were unable to detect the FLPe construct by PCR at 3
weeks after the removal of BSD selection (data not shown).
Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 165
We are now using the Δp5236 parasites generated in this study as the basis for introducing
additional marker-free gene deletions in order to generate a GAP-vaccine that is not only
potent but also safe for human use, specifically GAPs that are compromised at multiple
points of development (multiple-deletions) and without the addition of heterologous
sequences (i.e. no resistance markers). The procedures of efficient removal of drugresistance markers in gene deletion mutants that do not affect either gametocyte
production or drug-sensitivity, demonstrate that the FLPe recombinase system is an
effective and powerful tool that offers new opportunities for P. falciparum transgenesis,
both for the analysis of gene function and for the generation of genetically attenuated
parasites - making the removal of resistance genes and multiple gene-deletion mutants
possible.
While this manuscript was under review, a very similar method to re-cycle drug selectable
markers in P. falciparum was published. In this study O’Neill and colleagues demonstrated
that highly efficient site-specific recombination, removing introduced DNA, was obtained
using Cre recombinase and loxP sites [31]. Interestingly, they observed very low levels
of recombination, as did we, with standard (30°C optimal) FLP recombinase but do not
report testing a 37°C optimised variant of FLP.
Material and Methods
Culture of P. falciparum blood stages and parasite cloning
Blood stages of P. falciparum parasites of line NF54 (wild-type; WT) and the different mutants
generated in this study (see below) were cultured using in vitro culture conditions for P. falciparum
previously described [32,33,34]. Subcultures of the different lines were established in the same
semi-automated culture system. Fresh human red blood cells were obtained from Dutch National
blood bank (Sanquin Nijmegen, NL; permission granted from donors for the use of blood products
for malaria research), washed in serum free medium, and these were added to these cultures at
parasitemias between 2-7%, thereby reducing the parasiteamia to 0.5% while maintaining a 5%
hematocrit. Induction of gametocyte production in these cultures was performed as previously
described [32,33,34].
Cloning of transgenic parasites was performed by the method of limiting dilution in 96 well plates
[35]. Parasites of the positive wells were transferred to the semi-automated culture system and
cultured for further phenotype and genotype analyses (see below).
166 l Chapter 8
Generation of DNA constructs
The pf52 and pf36 genes (PFD0215c and PFD0210c) of P. falciparum were disrupted using an
adapted version of the standard construct (pHHT-FCU) for gene deletion using positive/negative
selection procedure [9]. The pHHT-FRT-Pf5236 targeting construct was generated by inserting
target sequences including FRT sites (in italic) for p52 (primers BVS25: CATGCAATTG-aagttcctattctc
tagaaagtataggaacttc-aattcacaagcaactaaaatcaatatcc; 1638: CATGCCATGG-tttgaataagttttacaacctgc)
digested with MfeI and NcoI and p36 (primers BVS18: GAATTCGATATC-gaagttcctatactttctagaga
ataggaacttc-cactcgaatgtgggatggcatcc; 2589 (tccccgcggATGAGGTACATTCTCAGGAATC) digested
with EcoRV and SacII into the EcoRI, NcoI and HpaI, SacII sites respectively of pHHT-FCU. For
construction of pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf5236 the hdfr resistance gene was replaced by cloning the
HindIII and SacI digested hdfr-gfp fusion gene fragment from plasmid pBKHGint (Christian Flueck,
unpublished) into HindIII and SacI digested pHHT-FRT-Pf5236.
Two plasmids were generated that contain an FLP recombinase under the control of the hsp86
promoter and the blasticidin-S-deaminase (bsd) resistance marker. The first construct, pMV-FLP was
constructed by inserting the standard FLP gene as a 1322bp fragment PCR amplified from plasmid
[email protected] (kindly provided by Robert Menard, Pasteur Institute, Paris, France) using primers
BVS53 (5’-GGTCCTCGAGatggtttccctttccc) and BVS54 (5’-TCGCCTCGAG-ttatatgcgtctatttatgtaggatg),
into XhoI digested pHHT-FCU replacing the fcu open reading frame and subsequently cloning the
NotI/SacII HSP86-FLP-pBDT fragment into the NotI/SacII digested pBSII-KS+ plasmid (Stratagene).
The bsd-cassette (5’HRPIII-BSD-3’HRPII) derived from pCMB-BSD [7] was introduced in this
plasmid through KpnI/PstI cloning of the 2800bp 5’HRPIII-BSD-3’HRPII fragment, resulting in
plasmid pMV-FLP. The second construct, pMV-FLPe, was constructed by inserting the standard
FLPe (a 37°C thermostable enhanced allozyme of FLP recombinase [27]) gene as a 1340bp
fragment PCR amplified from plasmid pGaggs-FLPe (obtained via Addgene; www.addgene.org)
using primers BVS120 (5’- gggtcgac-AGATCTCACCATGGCTCCCAAGAAGAAGAGG) and BVS121 (5’gggtcgac-CTCGACTCTAGATCATTATATGCG) into the XhoI digested pMV-FLP plasmid, resulting in
plasmid pMV-FLPe.
A generic construct containing FRT sites was made in which target regions are easily exchanged
to target any gene of interest. The construct is an adapted version of the standard construct
(pHHT-FCU; see above for construct details) in which P52 target regions including FRT sites
were introduced (5’p52 with primer bvs29 (5’agcatgCCGCGGCGCGCTGCCAGAATGTTCTTGTTCG)
and
bvs30
(5’
CATGGTTAACGAAGTT-CCTATACTTTCTAGAGAA-TAGGAACTTCGTACGCGTgcctttgttaatcaaagtaatccaaccg) into SacII/HpaI digested pHHT-FCU and for 3’p52 primer
bvs31(5’agcatgGAATTCGAAGTTC-CTATTCTCTAGAAAGTAT-AGGAACTTCccgggtaccCATATATTATATGTTCCTCTTG) and bvs32(5’ AGCATGCCATGGCTAGC-catacactttttctcatgag) into NcoI/
EcoRI digested pHHT-FCU). Each target region contains 4 unique restriction sites for the 5’target
region BsiWI/MluI, BssHII/SacII and for the 3’target region NcoI/NheI, KpnI/XmaI (SOM Fig. 1C).
A P52-FRT containing generic construct and pMV-FLPe are available on request for research
purposes. DNA fragments were amplified by PCR amplification (Phusion, Finnzymes) from
genomic P. falciparum DNA (NF54 strain) or from the described plasmids and all PCR fragments
were sequenced after TOPO TA (Invitrogen) sub-cloning.
Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 167
Transfection and selection of transgenic parasites
Transfection of blood-stage parasites was performed as described [25] using a BTX electroporation
system. Transfected parasites were cultured in a semi automated culture system. Selection of gene
deletion mutants by positive and negative selection procedures were performed as described [9].
Transfection of gene deletion mutants with constructs containing FLP or FLPe (plasmids pMV-FLP,
pMV-FLPe) and selection of blasticidin resistant parasite populations was performed as described
[7].
Genotype analysis of transgenic parasites
Genotype analysis of transformed parasites was performed by Expand Long range dNTPack
(Roche) diagnostic PCR (LR-PCR) and Southern blot analysis. Genomic DNA of blood stages of WT
or mutant parasites was isolated as described [36] and analyzed by LR-PCR using primer pair (p1,
p2) 3258 (5’-TAAACCTATTTGAAGCTTTATAC) and 3259 (5’-CTTGTGGGAAATTACAATGAC) for correct
integration of construct p5236FRT in the pf52/36 locus by double cross over integration. The
LR-PCR program has an elongation step of 62°C [26] for 10 minutes, and an annealing step of 48°C
for 30 seconds. All other PCR settings were according to manufacturers instructions.
For Southern blot analysis, genomic DNA was digested with EcoRI/HindIII or with BclI for analysis
of disruption of pf52 and pf36 respectively. DNA was size fractionated respectively on a 0.7% or 1%
agarose gel and transferred to a Hybond-N membrane (Amersham) by gravitational flow [36]. The
blot was pre-hybridized in Church buffer [37] followed by hybridization to a pf52 and pf36 specific
probes (pHHT-FRT-Pf5236 or pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf5236 digested with NcoI/XbaI (1089 bp) or SacII/
XbaI (902 bp) respectively) constituting the sequences used as target sequences for integration
(see above). Both probes were labelled using the High Prime DNA labelling kit (Roche) and purified
with Micro Biospin columns (Biorad).
Fluorescence microscopy
Samples (2 µl) of infected red blood cells from cultures with parasitemias between 2 and 10% were
incubated with Hoechst 33258 (10µM) for 20 minutes at 37°C before mounting on a sealed cover
slip slide. Hoechst- and GFP-fluorescence were analysed using a Zeiss Fluorescence microscope
(1000x magnification) and Axiovision software.
Gametocyte and male gamete production
Gametocyte production was established in cultures at day 13-15 after start of the gametocyte
cultures by counting the number of mature gametocytes (stage II and stages IV/V) in Giemsa stained
thin blood films [32]. Male gamete formation was determined by activation of exflagellation.
Samples of 10µl were taken from the cultures, infected red blood cells pelleted by centrifugation
and resuspended in 10µl of Foetal Calf Serum (pH 8.0) at room temperature for 10 minutes and
then mounted on a cover slip. Exflagellation centers were counted under the light-microscope in
168 l Chapter 8
5 homogeneous fields of a single cell layer of red blood cells at a 400x magnification. The samples
were scored as follows: if the mean number of exflagellation centers was >10/field they were
scored as ++; <10 /field they were scored as +; and none was scored as 0.
Drug sensitivity assays
Drug sensitivity was analyzed as described [38] with some modifications. Briefly, infected blood cells
(1% parasitemia) were cultured using the Candle Jar method in 24 wells culture plates containing
serial drug dilutions of either WR99210 [25] (Jacobus Pharmaceutical Company) or blasticidin [7]
(Invitrogen). Medium was changed daily. The parasitemia in all culture wells was determined 96
hours after the start of the cultures by counting infected erythrocytes in Giemsa stained thin blood
smears. The non-linear regression function for sigmoidal dose-response (variable slope) of the
GraphPad Prism software is used to calculate the (best-fit) inhibitory concentration (IC50) values.
Acknowledgements
We are grateful to Dr. Christian Flueck and Dr. Till Voss for providing the pBKHGint vector
and Dr. R. Menard (Institute Pasteur, Paris) for providing us with a construct containing
the FLP (30°C) recombinase (i.e. [email protected] construct).
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Resistance-marker free P. falciparum mutants l 171
(A) Constructs containing FLP recombinase (pMV-FLP; pMV-FLPe)
3’pbdt
5’hsp86
Flp/flpe
3’hrp2
5’hrp3
bsd
Parasitemia (‰)
(B) Growth of WT and mutant parasites in subcultures
Δp5236gfp*mock
Δp5236gfp*FLPe
Δp5236gfp*FLP
WT*FLPe
Days
(C) Generic double cross-over targeting construct pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf52
3’target-p52
5’target-p52
NcoI/NheI KpnI/XmaI
FRT 3’hrp2
3’pbdt
BsiWI/MluI BssHII/SacII
hdhfr::gfp
fcu
5’cam FRT
5’hsp86
Supplementary Figure 1. A. FLP/FLPe recombinase containing construct. The construct for transient
expression of standard FLP recombinase (plasmid pMV-FLP) or its 37°C thermostable enhanced allozyme,
FLPe (plasmid pMV-FLPe). The flp and flpe genes are under the control of the hsp86 promoter. These
plasmids contain the blasticidin-s-deaminase (bsd) gene under control of the hrp3 promotor. hrp: histidine
rich protein; pbdt: P.berghei dhfr terminator. B. Delayed growth phenotypes of FLPe expressing blood
stages in subcultures. Growth of blood stages of wild type and mutant parasites in the presence or
absence of FLPe expression in subcultures, showing a delayed growth phenotype in the presence FLPe
expression. Solid arrows: Dilution of Δp5236gfp subculturing to 0.5% parasiteamia with fresh erythrocytes.
Dashed arrow: Dilution of WT*FLPe subculture with fresh erythrocytes. C. Generic pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf52
construct. The construct (pHHT-FRT-(GFP)-Pf52) for targeting deletion of the p52 gene contains the two FRT
sequences (red triangles) that are recognized by FLP. Indicated are the restriction sites that are introduced
to facilitate exchange of p52 targeting regions with targeting regions of other genes of interest (). Each
target region contains 4 unique restriction sites for the 5’target region BsiWI/MluI, BssHII/SacII and for the
3’target region NcoI/NheI, KpnI/XmaI. cam: calmodulin; hrp: histidine rich protein; hsp: heatshock protein;
fcu: cytosine deaminase/uracil phosphoribosyl-transferase; pbdt: P.berghei dhfr terminator
Chapter 9
General Discussion
.
General Discussion l 175
Introduction
In this thesis, a molecular genetics approach was used to investigate the function of
selected members of the 6-cysteine (6-cys) protein family from the gametocyte stage and
the sporozoite stage in both P. berghei and P. falciparum. The aim of these studies was to
gain a deeper insight into their role in the biology of malaria parasites and to explore the
application of these 6-cys members as targets for malaria vaccine development.
The 6-cysteine protein family is involved in fertilization
Once ingested by blood feeding female Anopheles mosquitoes, gametocytes become
activated and the resulting male and female gametes fertilize to start sporogonic
development. Fertilization is critically dependent on the mutual recognition of
Plasmodium gametes and the gamete surface protein P48/45 is essential for this process
[1]. In chapter 2 we present evidence that in addition to P48/45, two other 6-cys
members (i.e. P230 and P47) play an important role in P. berghei parasite fertilization.
Male gametes lacking P230 are unable to attach to female gametes and in vitro cross
fertilization experiments show that male gametes lacking P230 are not functional, a
phenotype reminiscent of P. berghei parasites lacking P48/45 [1]. Consequently in vitro
zygote/ookinete formation as well as in vivo oocyst formation is strongly reduced in P.
berghei parasites lacking either P230 or P48/45. In P. falciparum, gene disruption studies
show a similar reduction in oocyst numbers during transmission studies of parasites
lacking P230 [2] or P48/45 [1] however this reduction is not linked specifically to a
male gamete defect as in vitro cross fertilization assays have not been described for P.
falciparum. Recent progress with in vitro ookinete cultures [3,4] may provide the first
steps towards an in vitro cross fertilization assay for P. falciparum to elucidate P230 and
P48/45 male specific function. Alternatively, male specific complementation of P230 and
P48/45 within the background of the respective gene deletion mutants could confirm the
expected male specific function of these proteins in P. falciparum. The specific function of
P230 and P48/45 in male gametes is surprising because both proteins are also expressed
in P. berghei and P. falciparum female gametes [2,5] and our experiments show that
female P. berghei gametes lacking P230 or P48/45 are fully functional. The expression of
these proteins is apparently not directly linked to the male specific biological function.
176 l Chapter 9
P48/45 is attached to the gametocyte membrane surface by GPI anchoring. As the
mosquito takes a blood meal and takes up the gametocytes, they are activated
and emerge from the red blood cell as free gametes. During this activation P230 is
proteolytically cleaved and forms a protein complex with P48/45 [2,6,7,8,9,10]. It is
therefore not surprising that P230 and P48/45 share a common function in male gamete
fertility. The reduction of fertilization in P230 or P48/45 deletion mutants is however,
incomplete (chapter 2) especially P. falciparum P230 mutants show a high degree of
functional redundancy [2]. Evidently, successful fertilization requires more than the
interactions of these proteins and protein complex formation involving multiple proteins
may be essential for fertilization between male and female gametes.
The process of fertility likely involves a multistep process including female gamete
recognition, docking, attachment, fusion and finally entry by the male gamete. Such a
multistep process has recently been described for merozoite invasion of erythrocytes
and the process requires interaction of a complex of proteins located on the surface
of the merozoite [11]. Formation of protein complexes may also be involved in the
early steps of gamete fertility, and next to P48/45 and P230 another protein was
found to be critical for functional male gametes. The HAP2/GCS1 protein, is involved in
fusion of gametes and P. berghei gene deletion mutants show complete male sterility
[12,13,14]. The HAP2/GCS1 protein, originally identified on the surface of male plant
gametes is likely also expressed on the surface of Plasmodium male gametes [14] and
this protein may interact with fertility factors described in this thesis (i.e. P230, P48/45
and P47). In P. falciparum, P230 has been shown to form a complex with one of the six
members of the pCCp adhesion molecules, PfCCp4 [15]. P230 and PfCCp4 co-localize
in the parasitophorous vacuole associated with the gametocyte surface and following
emergence PfCCp4 remains associated with P230 on the macrogamete surface. Although
this protein alone is not essential in the process of fertility, pCCp4 antibodies are able
to inhibit male exflagellation in the presence of active human complement[15] as is also
described for P230 antibody mediated lysis of gametes [16,17,18]. Interestingly P230
specific antibodies are even more efficient in inhibition of exflagellation of PfCCp4 ko
parasites [15] suggesting that PfCCp4 protects the P230 and P48/45 protein complex and
disruption of PfCCp4 renders gametes more susceptible to antibody binding. As the pCCp
proteins are described as adhesion molecules they may be involved in the early steps of
gamete fertility in conjunction with other surface proteins. More detailed studies on
General Discussion l 177
the complex formation between P48/45, P230 and PfCCp4 and possible identification of
other fertility factors may elucidate the critical steps involved in the interaction of male
and female gametes.
In chapter 2 we describe that P. berghei P47 is essential for female fertility and in vitro
cross fertilization studies show that female gametes lacking P47 are not recognized
by WT male gametes. Consistent with the female specific function, is the expression
of P47exclusively in P. berghei female gametocytes [5]. This prompted us to study the
function and expression of P47 in P. falciparum (chapter 3). P47 is expressed on the
surface of female gametes following emergence from red blood cells. In contrast to
P. berghei however, P47 in P. falciparum does not appear to be crucial for recognition
of female gametes by male gametes. Parasites lacking P47 through SXO targeted gene
disruption produce normal numbers of oocysts when included in the blood meal of the
mosquito. Recently, the P47 locus has indeed been successfully used as a non-essential
locus suitable to target a construct for constitutive GFP expression through the life
cycle [19]. The absence of a role for P47 in fertilization is further demonstrated by the
generation and subsequent use of, three P. falciparum anti-P47 monoclonal antibodies
(mAbs). None of the P47 mAbs are able to inhibit oocyst development when added to a
mosquito blood meal containing Wt gametocytes. These combined results disqualify the
candidacy of P47 as a transmission-blocking vaccine target.
The Plasmodium proteins and protein interactions involved in the different steps of
parasite fertility are still largely unknown. Identification of such proteins requires detailed
knowledge of sex specific and sexual stage specific gene expression. While there are
several proteomic and genomic studies showing sexual stage specific gene expression
(see chapter 2 table 1), male and female specific studies as performed in P. berghei [5]
are lacking for P. falciparum. Therefore, we initiated a genome wide approach starting
with the generation of P. falciparum parasite lines expressing GFP specifically in male
or female gametocytes. These studies became feasible by identification of P47 as the
first protein only found in female gametocytes. Previously, elevated female expression of
the osmiophilic body protein Pfg377 was shown, however a low number of osmiophilic
bodies are also found in male gametocytes [20]. Additionally, Pf77 transcription was
identified only in female gametocytes but expression of the protein could not be
confirmed using antibodies [21]. We show in chapter 4 the generation of a parasite line,
which under control of the P47 promoter, expresses GFP only in female gametocytes.
Generation of the male counterpart was based on dyneine controlled GFP expression.
178 l Chapter 9
Using flow-cytometry, GFP positive male or female gametocytes can be separated for
proteomic or microarray analysis to identify proteins involved in the different steps
of fertilization. It was recently hypothesized that recognition and attachment of the
male and female gametes occurs by nanotube formation [22]. Long actin containing
filamentous structures extend from the gametes expressing known membrane proteins
including P230 and P48/45. Nanotubes can potentially form the first intimate contact
between gametes in the mosquito midgut [22]. Such a mechanism facilitating the
recognition and attachment steps of fertility may explain the unexpected high efficiency
of parasite infectivity to mosquitoes even at low gametocyte densities [23].
Continued efforts to elucidate the critical events in parasite fertility will be essential
to better understand the biology of the sexual stages and possibly discover novel
transmission blocking targets. Data from a separate male and female P. falciparum
proteome may help to identify specific proteins involved in the fertilization process.
Functional redundancy of members of the 6-cysteine
protein family
Previously, the P230 paralog P230p has been described as a male gametocyte specific
protein expressed in stage III to IV gametocytes [24]. While this specific expression
pattern may relate to a specific male function it was unlikely to be directly linked to
fertility in the absence of membrane surface expression and lack of expression in fully
matured stage V male gametocytes. When targeted for disruption in P. berghei, p230p
deletion mutants do not show any phenotypic characteristics during the entire P. berghei
life cycle different from wild type (chapter 2). Similar to P47 in P. falciparum, the P.
berghei p230p gene is now commonly used as a locus for integration of transgenes, such
as fluorescent reporter genes [25]. In P. falciparum p230p has not been studied by gene
disruption. The redundant function in P. berghei and expression in P. falciparum may
rightfully preclude such studies.
Disruption of p38 does not cause any deleterious effects during the life cycle of P. berghei
(Chapter 2). Previously the merozoite 6-cys proteins P38, P41 and P12 were found to be
associated in raft-like membrane patches in P. falciparum [26]. The P41 protein localizes
at the apical surface of free merozoites. P38 and P12 GFP fusion proteins are localized
on the merozoite surface with P38 prominently on the apical surface. The appearance
General Discussion l 179
of 2 distinct dots suggests that P38 resides in the rhoptry in the early stage of schizont
development [26]. Recently the same group has shown that p38 and p41 are amenable
to gene disruption [27]. The disrupted parasites await phenotypic evaluation but
these genes are unlikely to be essential for parasite survival since targeted disruption
is performed in the blood stages. One can therefore expect that P38 and P41 will not
qualify as potential vaccine candidates.
Two 6-cysteine genes as targets for a sporozoite based
vaccine approach
Previously, P52 deficient P. berghei malaria sporozoites were shown to be arrested in
the liver stages and immunizations with these attenuated sporozoites induced long term
protective immunity in mice [28,29]. This approach and recent work using irradiated
sporozoites has led to renewed interest in using attenuated sporozoites as potential preerythrocytic vaccines (for review see [30,31]). Therefore, we disrupted the equivalent
gene in the human parasite as described in chapter 6. We find that P52 deficient P.
falciparum parasites demonstrate normal development up to the sporozoite stage and
that p52 gene deletion sporozoites in P. falciparum and in P. berghei [28] are able to
invade hepatocytes. In contrast to our data, Ishino et.al. showed that P. berghei p52 gene
deletion sporozoites are able to traverse through hepatocytes without the capacity to
invade by parasitophorous vacuole (PV) formation [32]. There is debate whether p52
gene deletion sporozoites enter hepatocytes by traversal and subsequently remain
intracellular or invade by PV formation similar to WT sporozoites. More detailed studies
are in progress to determine the capacity of p52 gene deletion mutants to form a PV
during the invasion of hepatocytes.
P. falciparum p52 gene deletion sporozoites are arrested in their development inside
cultured primary human hepatocytes at 20 hours post infection. This study revealed for the
first time, that disrupting the equivalent gene in both human and rodent malaria species
generates parasites that become similarly arrested during liver stage development. Since
these parasites were produced by SXO disruption of p52, low frequency reversion to WT
parasites cannot be excluded (see chapter 1) ruling out the use of these parasites for
clinical vaccine development. DXO technology was next applied by others to target p52
and p36 both as single and double deletion parasites [33]. Simultaneous deletion of p52
180 l Chapter 9
and p36 is possible because these two paralogous genes are separated only by a 1.4 Kb
intergenic region. Both p52 and p36 single deletion parasites and p52/p36 double gene
deletion parasites showed a severe growth arrest at day 6 and 4 post infection in HCO4
hepatic cells respectively [33]. In chapter 6 we observe developmental arrest of p52 SXO
gene deletion parasites at 20 hours post infection and this discrepancy may be caused
by a difference between parasite development in primary human hepatocytes [34]
compared to HCO4 cells exhibiting asynchronous development of liver stage parasites
[35].
Complete liver stage attenuation of p52/p36 gene deletion parasites has been shown
in P. falciparum [33] and P.yoelii [36]. In chapter 7 and 8 we describe the generation
of comparable P. berghei and P. falciparum p52/p36 gene deletion mutants and also
find severe attenuation in mice and primary human hepatocytes respectively. However,
following immunization with P. berghei p52/p36 gene deletion parasites, mice become
parasitemic (i.e. ‘breakthrough’ infections) and occasionally find P. falciparum p52/
p36 gene deletion parasites with multiple nuclei in primary human hepatocytes. These
observations provide evidence that both P. berghei and P. falciparum parasites can
progress into replicating liver stages in the absence of P52 and P36. These results show
a degree of redundancy in the sporozoite specific 6-cys proteins P52 and P36 as was
also found for the gametocyte specific 6-cys proteins P47, P48/45, P230 and P230p.
Recently, a Phase I clinical trial has been conducted using mosquitoes infected with p52/
p36 deletion parasites [33,37]. During this trial 1 out of 6 volunteers developed blood
stage parasites at day 12 after receiving 263 infectious mosquito bites. These blood
stage ‘breakthrough’ parasites were confirmed as p52/p36 mutant parasites [37]. When
considering the development of a genetically attenuated sporozoite vaccine based on
these 6-cys proteins, these findings clearly illustrate that additional genes need to be
deleted to prevent breakthrough infections and ensure safety during immunization.
Apart from complete sporozoite attenuation, there are other safety issues to consider
in the clinical development of a genetically attenuated sporozoite vaccine. Genetically
modified organisms produced through recombinant DNA technology, often contain
heterologous DNA such as plasmid derived bacterial sequences, resistance markers for
selection purposes and gene targeting sequences. The presence of especially resistance
markers in live attenuated whole organism vaccines is restricted by regulatory authorities
[38,39]. The first generations of p52/p36 gene deletion parasites contain a selectable
resistance marker, preventing licensure as a vaccine product. Therefore, in chapter 8 we
General Discussion l 181
describe a method to remove heterologous DNA sequences from P. falciparum mutants
using FLPe recombinase. So far only one efficient method exists to generate DXO gene
deletions [40] and recycling the drug selectable marker with FLPe recombinase, for the
first time enables multiple sequential gene deletions. This versatile method will be used
to generate fully attenuated parasites by deleting additional essential liver stage genes
next to p52/p36.
Identifying genes that are essential exclusively during the liver stage of the parasite
life cycle presents a considerable challenge, but recently the Plasmodium fatty acid
synthesis route (FAS-II) has been investigated as a potential gene target for attenuation.
FAS-II gene deletion mutants invade the hepatocyte by normal PV formation, are able
to replicate the genome and developmental arrest occurs at a late time point of liver
stage development [41,42,43] as compared to P52/36 gene deletion parasites (chapter
7). For vaccine safety, the targeting of different metabolic processes may be an effective
method to prevent breakthrough infection and decrease the probability that parasites
regain infectiousness through mutations or recombination.
Progress in Plasmodium transfection technology
Genetic manipulation of Plasmodium has a major impact on our understanding of
the biology of the malaria parasite and is applied in this thesis for the analysis of the
6-cys protein family. These analyses have been hampered primarily by the difficulties
associated with P. falciparum transfections. P. berghei is currently the model organism
for genetic analysis of malaria parasites because transfection in P. berghei is exceedingly
more efficient compared to P. falciparum. Transfection of schizonts/merozoites in P.
berghei is very efficient but has not been accomplished in P. falciparum parasites which
are only amenable to transfection of asexual ring stage parasites [44,45]. As is outlined
in chapter 8, the process of generating P. falciparum DXO gene deletions takes an excess
of 15 weeks and increasing the transfection efficiency by direct targeting of merozoites as
well as immediate DXO gene deletion by transfection with linear DNA constructs need to
be accomplished for improved P. falciparum transfection and chromosomal integration
efficiency. Many efforts have been undertaken to improve efficiencies in P. falciparum,
including plasmid preloading of erythrocytes and lipofectamine based transformation. In
182 l Chapter 9
P. falciparum, both we and others (personal communication, C. Janse) have attempted
the nucleofector transfection technology as described for P. berghei [25,46] albeit with
limited success.
None the less, alternative approaches have been published which lead to improved
possibilities to study the biology of P. falciparum parasites. Efficient site-specific
plasmid integration has been shown in P. falciparum chromosomes mediated by
mycobacteriophage BxB1 integrase [47]. The target site (attB) of BxB1integrase is first
incorporated in a specific locus by standard homologous recombination. Subsequently,
any plasmid harboring the donor site (attP) can be integrated irreversibly into the target
site by BxB1integrase. Prospects of this approach include functional complementation
studies or generation of parasite lines harboring reporter genes such as GFP or luciferase
[47,48,49]. Another exciting novel possibility is the introduction of artificial chromosomes
in Plasmodium research. In analogy with bacterial and yeast artificial chromosomes
(BAC and YAC respectively) Plasmodium artificial chromosomes (PAC) were constructed
for P. berghei by defining the centromeric regions needed for prolonged maintenance of
constructs during mitosis and meiosis [50]. PACs can be used to incorporate larger and
more transgenes into the transfected constructs than would be feasible with standard
episomal plasmids. PACs which can be maintained in P. falciparum are also being
developed (personal communication, S. Iwanaga).
The majority of gene function studies including those described in this thesis have taken
a targeted approach to study a gene of interest (GOI) (i.e. reverse genetics). Forward
genetics is the classical genetics approach to identify genes with a specific biological
function and requires random mutagenesis combined with a solid phenotypic screen.
Random mutagenesis was recently accomplished using the transposable element
piggyback and the system has enabled identification of several growth attenuated P.
falciparum parasite lines [51,52]. The constraint of this approach in terms of vaccine
development is finding a relevant phenotypic screen, as for identification of vaccine
targets complete loss-of-function phenotypes are required. Therefore essential genes
especially those expressed during the asexual stages will not be identified and require a
conditional gene deletion approach.
Conditional mutagenesis is commonly used in genetic model organisms to study
the function of essential genes. In the mosquito stages of P. berghei, conditional
mutagenesis has been reported using the FRT/FLP recombinase system derived from
General Discussion l 183
yeast [53]. While this is an elegant technique it does not allow identification and detailed
analysis of essential asexual blood stage genes as Plasmodium gene deletions can only
be generated in the asexual stages. The first steps to achieve conditional mutagenesis
in P. falciparum asexual stages were described in chapter 8. We describe the use of an
enhanced FLP recombinase (FLPe) [54] to efficiently remove genes flanked by two FRT
sites (Fig 1a, chapter 8). This is the first report using FLPe recombinase in P. falciparum
and the first time that an FLP enzyme was found to function efficiently in the blood
stages of the malaria parasite. By combining the FLPe system with complementation
and the inducible ATc-regulation system [55], essential genes in the blood stages could
in future be identified by inducible gene disruption. Such a mechanism would employ
integration of the complete cassette of the GOI flanked with FLP recognition target (FRT)
sites followed by DXO gene deletion of the endogenous GOI. Subsequently, inducible
FLPe treatment in any desired stage of the asexual cycle the GOI will be immediately
deleted allowing analysis of the function of the GOI at that specific stage of parasite
development.
In chapter 8 we describe the use of the FLP enzyme to remove resistance markers from
mutant parasites and this novel technique enables the recycling of resistance markers
in P. falciparum gene deletion studies. To date there is only one effective system to
generate targeted double cross over (DXO) gene deletion mutants [40]. This is due to
the scarcity of selectable markers available for selection of P. falciparum DXO mutant
parasites. Several reported drugs and resistance marker combinations, cause rapid
selection of resistant parasites as has been described for BSD [56] and observed for
Neomycin (personal communication, A. Maier). By repeated recycling of the resistance
marker, in theory an unlimited amount of genes may be removed from the genome.
There is however one concern in the sequential gene deletions which results from the
remaining FRT scar following each FLPe removal of the resistance marker. Unintended
genome rearrangements or deletions can potentially be mediated between remaining
FRT scars. Recently the use of a second recombinase system, Cre-LoxP was reported in
P. falciparum. The system is also able to mediate removal of selectable markers from
P. falciparum blood stage deletion mutants [57]. Unintended recombinations can be
circumvented by using both the FRT/FLPe and the Cre-LoxP recombinase systems as the
enzymes use different DNA target sites. This is especially important when the genomic
locations of the targeted loci are in close proximity.
184 l Chapter 9
Recombinase systems now enable gene deletion studies of whole families of genes and
also targeting of multiple genes to elucidate redundancy in gene function as has been
observed for several members of the 6-cys family in this thesis. An additional possibility
of using the FLPe recombinase system is to use the FRT scar, as a target site for FLPe
mediated insertion of transgenes (e.g. complementation of the deleted gene or reporter
genes). FLPe mediated insertion has previously been described in mammalian cells [58].
Studies have been initiated to generate an array of reporter parasite lines using such an
approach to study the biology of P. falciparum parasites including the interactions with
both the mosquito vector and the human host.
Considerations and perspectives
In this thesis the rodent malaria parasite P. berghei is used as a genetic model organism for
the analysis of the 6-cys gene family, subsequently followed by confirmation studies in the
clinically important malaria parasite, P. falciparum. Analysis of the genome organization
between P. falciparum and three combined rodent malaria parasites (cRMP; P. berghei,
P. chabaudi, and P. yoelii) shows 90% synteny and a high level of conservation in 85% of
the genes, indicating a close relationship between the rodent and human parasites [59].
However, these analyses also indicate the presence of over 500 P. falciparum specific
genes that do not have a rodent malaria ortholog. Most of these genes are expected
to play a role in host–parasite interactions [59] and these findings may cause a higher
degree of redundancy in gene function in P. falciparum compared to rodent malaria. In
this thesis we indeed find different phenotypes between P. berghei and P. falciparum as
disruption of P47 does not reveal a function in female fertility in P. falciparum (chapter
2 and 3) and also α-tubulin II based reporter gene expression was not male specific
in P. falciparum ([5] and chapter 5). However, our studies of the sporozoite specific
6-cys genes show comparable results between the two Plasmodia. In chapter 7 the
phenotype of P. berghei p52/p36 gene deletion mutants are predictive of the outcome
of our studies using P. falciparum p52/p36 mutants in primary human hepatocytes and
in the first human trial using P. falciparum p52/p36 gene deletion sporozoites [37]. A
recent communication dealing with the validity of malaria models concludes that no
malaria model is identical to human malaria but can be of predictive value when model
differences, similarities and limitations are considered [60]. One limitation is that nonessential genes in malaria models (e.g. p230p in chapter 2) are also assumed to be non-
General Discussion l 185
essential in P. falciparum, precluding detailed analysis by reverse genetics. Likewise, P.
falciparum genes without an ortholog in malaria models, may be unrepresented in gene
deletion studies. Despite these limitations, the P. berghei rodent malaria model offers
technological advantages (e.g. rapid reverse genetics) and provides an efficient genetic
malaria model for gene function analysis in P. falciparum.
At present gene targeting by DXO genetic integration in P. falciparum is a standardized
method, but efficiency of transfection has not improved over the last decade and remains
a major bottleneck in gene function analysis. Investments are merited to develop efficient
transfection techniques for P. falciparum merozoites. A major step forward would be to
ensure the prolonged maintenance of free merozoites in culture for a sufficient period
of time to allow transfection and subsequent reinvasion of transformed merozoites.
The maximum period of viability for free merozoites is currently 15 minutes at room
temperature with average time to reinvasion of 10 minutes for 80% of merozoites [61].
Finding ways to increase and prolong the viability of free merozoites will significantly
increase transfection efficiency in P. falciparum.
Our recent accomplishments with FLPe recombinase in P. falciparum may lead to increased
possibilities to manipulate the parasite genome. FLP mediated genetic integration has
been described in other organisms and may enable more straightforward generation
of an array of reporter parasites or complementation following gene deletion in P.
falciparum. Moreover, the FLPe recombinase technique offers one of the steps required
to achieve conditional gene deletion and this is may enable future identification of
essential asexual genes which is currently not feasible as gene deletions are performed
in the asexual stages.
Our studies provide further evidence that some members of the 6-cys family of proteins
are important for the biology of the malaria parasite and represent targets for vaccine
development at the sexual and sporozoite stages. P48/45 has been produced as different
recombinant proteins which are in the process of clinical development for transmission
blocking vaccines [62,63]. A recombinant P230 protein produced in plants is able to
induce transmission blocking antibodies in mice [64,65]. In chapter 2 we have confirmed
the expected role of the proteins P48/45 and P230 in male parasite fertility particularly
in relation to the discovery that P47 plays a role in female fertility in P. berghei. Although
no function could be identified for the female specific P47 in P. falciparum, we generated
in chapter 4 P47 based female and dyneine based male specific reporter lines. At present
186 l Chapter 9
male and female gametocyte populations have been isolated and are being studied by
proteomic analysis to delineate sex-specific protein expression patterns and possibly
identify proteins with a role in fertilization. A function for P47 in female gametocytes
may in future be elucidated by identifying additional genes with a comparable expression
profile. Targeting of such genes in combination with P47 may help to identify the key
factors of female fertility of P. falciparum parasites.
The discovery of p52 and two uis genes being essential for the development of liver stage
parasites marked the start of the concept of genetically attenuated parasites (GAP) as a
whole organism malaria vaccine [28,66,67]. GAPs lacking p52 and p36 are currently the
leading pre-erythrocytic vaccine candidate [31] even though in chapter 7 we encountered
‘breakthrough’ asexual parasites after immunization with these mutants. Continued
investigation for essential liver stage genes will hopefully lead to the identification of
additional gene deletion targets next to p52/p36, to eliminate breakthrough parasites
and produce a safe and fully attenuated GAP. Clearly p52/p36 gene deletion parasites
are attenuated early in liver stage development prior to replication. The mechanism of
attenuation is most likely due to the inability to generate a stable PVM (Ploemen et.
al., submitted). Generation of specific antibodies and tagged proteins may reveal more
details about the localization and function of P52 and P36.
In this thesis the 6-cys protein family, expressed during the sexual stage and the sporozoite
stage has been analyzed primarily by gene deletion studies. Gene targeting combined
with recombinase technology may enable the generation multiple gene deletions within
the same parasite line and in future allow the generation of effective and safe 6-cys
based GAPs as (multiple stage transmission blocking) malaria vaccines.
General Discussion l 187
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Chapter 10
Summary
Samenvatting
Publications
Dankwoord
Curriculum Vitae
l 193
Summary
Malaria parasites contain a protein family with characteristic 6-cysteine (6-cys) protein
domains comprising of ten members which are conserved throughout all Plasmodium
species. The members of the 6-cys family are expressed during distinct stages throughout
the life cycle and most of the proteins are expressed on the surface of the parasite.
Some 6-cys proteins are known to play a role in cell-cell interactions. These specific
characteristics make this an interesting protein family for analysis of the biology of the
malaria parasite. In this thesis, a molecular genetics approach is used to investigate the
function of selected members of the 6-cys protein family from the gametocyte stage and
the sporozoite stage in both the rodent malaria model P. berghei and the human malaria
parasite P. falciparum. The aim of these studies is to gain a deeper insight into the
biological function of malaria parasites and to explore the application of 6-cys proteins
as vaccine candidates to interrupt the malaria parasite life cycle.
During the development of the sexual stage gametocytes, the 6-cys proteins P230,
P230p, P48/45 and P47 are expressed and in chapter 2 we present evidence that in
addition to the known male fertility factor P48/45, two other 6-cys members (i.e. P230
and P47) play an essential role in P. berghei parasite fertilization. Male gametes lacking
P230 are unable to attach to female gametes and when fed to mosquitoes, in vivo oocyst
formation is strongly reduced. Targeted gene deletion of the paralog of p230, p230p
does not reveal a function during the entire P. berghei life cycle. Targeted deletion of
P. berghei P47 results in infertile female gametes which are not recognized by WT male
gametes consequently reducing transmission to mosquitoes. In chapter 3 we find that P.
falciparum P47 is expressed on the surface of female gametes following emergence from
red blood cells. In contrast to P. berghei however, P47 in P. falciparum does not appear to
be crucial for the recognition of female gametes and parasites lacking P47 through SXO
targeted gene disruption produce normal numbers of oocysts when included in the blood
meal of the mosquito. Moreover, monoclonal antibodies specific for P47 are not capable
of reducing parasite transmission when included in the blood meal of mosquitoes. These
findings disqualify the candidacy of P47 as a sexual stage vaccine target.
In chapter 4 we take a genome wide approach by adapting the female specific expression
profile of P47 for the generation of P. falciparum parasite lines expressing GFP controlled
by the P47 promoter specifically in female gametocytes. The generation of a male
194 l Chapter 10
specific GFP parasite line was based on dyneine controlled GFP expression. The produced
lines may be used in transcriptome or proteome studies to determine differences in
expression between male and female gametocytes and help to elucidate the different
steps in parasite fertility.
In chapter 6 we show that P. falciparum parasites lacking the 6-cys protein P52
demonstrate normal development up to the sporozoite stage. However, inside cultured
primary human hepatocytes, parasite development is arrested soon after hepatocyte
cell invasion. Conceptually, these liver stage genetically attenuated parasites (GAP) may
be applicable as a whole parasite vaccine. In chapter 7 and 8 we therefore describe
the generation of P. berghei and P. falciparum gene deletion mutants lacking both
sporozoite specific 6-cys proteins P52 and P36 and also find severe attenuation in mice
and primary human hepatocytes respectively. However, following immunization with P.
berghei p52/p36 gene deletion parasites some mice developed blood stage parasitaemia
(i.e. ‘breakthrough’ parasites) and at day 2- 4 after infection with P. falciparum p52/p36
deletion sporozoites we found replicating forms inside hepatocytes. These observations
provide evidence of incomplete attenuation since both P. berghei and P. falciparum
parasites can progress into replicating liver stages in the absence of P52 and P36.
Genetically modified organisms produced through recombinant DNA technology, often
contain heterologous DNA such as resistance markers used for selection. To minimize
the inclusion of foreign DNA inside GAP, we describe a method in chapter 8 to remove
these DNA sequences from P. falciparum mutants using FLPe recombinase. This method
will also allow the deletion of multiple genes within one parasite line and potentially
facilitate the generation of a fully attenuated GAP vaccine.
Several members of the 6-cys family are currently in different stages of vaccine
development as transmission blocking vaccines (i.e. P48/45 and P230) or GAP (i.e.
P52 and P36). Further development is necessary to transfer these targets into vaccine
products to be tested in clinical trials. In future, vaccines based on members of the 6-cys
family may contribute to the elimination of malaria as a health problem.
l 195
Samenvatting
De malaria parasiet bevat een familie van eiwitten die gekenmerkt wordt door 6-cysteine
(6-cys) eiwitdomeinen. De familie bestaat uit tien leden die in alle Plasmodium soorten
voorkomen. De leden van de 6-cys familie komen tot expressie tijdens verschillende
stadia van de levenscyclus van de parasiet en de meeste eiwitten bevinden zich op het
oppervlak van de parasiet. Van sommige 6-cys eiwitten is bekend dat ze een belangrijke
rol spelen bij cel-cel interactie. Deze specifieke kenmerken zorgen ervoor dat dit een
interessante eiwitfamilie is voor analyse van de biologie van de malariaparasiet. In dit
proefschrift, is een moleculair genetische benadering gekozen om de functie van een
aantal leden van de 6-cys familie te onderzoeken die tot expressie komen in het seksuele
stadium van de parasiet en in sporozoieten. De studies worden uitgevoerd in zowel het
knaagdier malaria model P. berghei, als in de humane malaria parasiet P. falciparum. Het
doel van deze studies is om meer inzicht te genereren in de biologische functie van 6-cys
eiwitten in de malaria parasiet en vervolgens een 6-cys vaccintoepassing te vinden om
de levenscyclus van malaria parasieten te onderbreken.
Tijdens de ontwikkeling van het seksuele stadium van malaria parasieten, gametocyten
en gameten, komen de 6-cys eiwitten P230, P230p, P48/45 en P47 tot expressie. In
hoofdstuk 2 laten we zien dat naast het belangrijke eiwit P48/45 voor de fertiliteit van
mannelijke gameten, twee andere 6-cys leden (P230 en P47) een essentiële rol spelen in
de fertiliteit van P. berghei parasieten. Mannelijke gameten zonder P230 kunnen niet aan
vrouwelijke gameten binden en wanneer ze gevoed worden aan muggen, is transmissie
van de parasiet sterk verminderd. Deletie van het gen van de paraloog van p230, p230p
heeft echter geen gevolgen voor de ontwikkeling van de parasiet tijdens de volledige
levenscyclus van P. berghei en is derhalve geen essentieel eiwit. In tegenstelling tot de
rol van P230 en P48/45 in mannelijke gameten, resulteert deletie van het P. berghei
p47 gen in infertiele vrouwelijke gameten die niet door mannelijke gameten worden
herkend met als gevolg sterk gereduceerde transmissie naar muggen. In hoofdstuk 3
vinden we dat P. falciparum P47 tot expressie komt op het oppervlak van vrouwelijke
gameten. In P. falciparum heeft P47 echter niet dezelfde functie in vrouwelijke fertiliteit
als in P. berghei, aangezien P. falciparum P47 gendeletie mutanten normale transmissie
naar muggen vertonen. Eveneens leiden P47 specifieke antilichamen niet tot een
196 l Chapter 10
reductie in transmissie wanneer deze worden toegevoegd aan een voeding van normale
parasieten aan de mug. Deze bevindingen ontmoedigen het gebruik van P47 als een
6-cys vaccintoepassing gericht tegen de transmissie van seksuele stadia.
In hoofdstuk 4 gebruiken we het vrouwelijke specifieke expressie profiel van P47 om P.
falciparum parasieten te genereren die fluorescerende (GFP) vrouwelijke gametocyten
produceren, door het gebruik van de P47 promotor. P. falciparum parasieten waarvan
de mannelijke gametocyten GFP tot expressie brengen zijn geproduceerd door gebruik
van een mannelijk specifieke dyneine promotor. De gegenereerde lijnen kunnen in
transcriptomic of proteomic studies worden gebruikt om verschillen in expressie tussen
mannelijke en vrouwelijke gametocyten te bepalen en mogelijk te identificeren welke
eiwitten en eiwitinteracties belangrijk zijn voor fertiliteit van P. falciparum.
In hoofdstuk 6 laten we zien, dat P. falciparum parasieten als gevolg van deletie van het
6-cys gen p52, tot en met het sporozoieten stadium in de mug een normale ontwikkeling
doormaken. Echter, na invasie van primaire humane hepatocyten stopt de ontwikkeling
van de parasiet. Deze genetisch geattenueerde parasieten (GAP) kunnen conceptueel
dienen als ‘levend verzwakt vaccin’. In hoofdstuk 7 en 8 vervolgen we deze experimenten
door gendeletie mutanten te genereren zowel in P. berghei als P. falciparum waarin
beide sporozoiet specifieke 6-cys eiwitten (P52 en P36) ontbreken. Zoals verwacht,
vinden we een ernstige verstoring in de ontwikkeling van deze parasieten gedurende
het leverstadium. Het is bekend dat immunisatie met vergelijkbare parasieten in
knaagdier malaria modellen kan leiden tot bescherming tegen malaria infectie maar
wij vinden tevens dat sommige muizen na immunisatie, bloed stadium parasieten
ontwikkelen (‘doorbraak’ parasieten). Na infectie van primaire humane hepatocyten met
P. falciparum sporozoieten waarin P52 en P36 ontbreken, vinden we replicerende lever
stadium parasieten. Deze bevindingen laten zien dat p52 en p36 deletie mutanten niet
volledig geattenueerd zijn aangezien zowel in P. berghei als in P. falciparum ontwikkeling
van deze parasieten mogelijk is. Hiermee wordt duidelijk dat additionele verzwakking
van de parasieten noodzakelijk is voordat het klinisch getest kan worden als GAP vaccin.
Genetisch gemodificeerde organismen worden gegenereerd door middel van
recombinant DNA technologie en bevatten ‘vreemd’ DNA zoals resistentie markers die
noodzakelijk zijn tijdens de selectie procedure. Om de hoeveelheid ‘vreemd’ DNA in
toekomstige GAP vaccin kandidaten te beperken hebben we in hoofdstuk 8 een methode
ontwikkeld voor het verwijderen van ‘vreemd’ DNA uit de parasiet met behulp van FLPe
l 197
recombinase. Deze nieuwe methode voor gendeletie in P. falciparum zorgt niet alleen
voor veiligere GAP tijdens immunisatie maar zorgt ook dat meerdere genen kunnen
worden uitgeschakeld in een parasiet. Voorheen was dit niet mogelijk door de beperkte
beschikbaarheid van resistentie markers in P. falciparum gendeletie technologie.
Verscheidene leden van de 6-cys eiwit familie bevinden zich in uiteenlopende stadia van
vaccinontwikkeling zoals transmissie blokkerende vaccins (P48/45 en P230) of GAP (P52
en P36). Voortschrijdende ontwikkeling is nodig om deze vaccinkandidaten uiteindelijk
in de kliniek te kunnen testen. In de toekomst, zullen vaccins gebaseerd op leden van de
6-cys eiwit familie hopelijk kunnen bijdragen aan de eliminatie van malaria.
198 l Chapter 10
List of Publications
1.
Annoura T, Ploemen IH, van Schaijk BC, Sajid M, Vos MW, van Gemert GJ,
Chevalley-Maurel S, Franke-Fayard BM, Hermsen CC, Gego A, Franetich JF,
Mazier D, Hoffman SL, Janse CJ, Sauerwein RW, Khan SM. Assessing the
adequacy of attenuation of genetically modified malaria parasite vaccine
candidates. Vaccine. 2012 Mar 30;30(16):2662-70. Epub 2012 Feb 16.
2.
van Schaijk BC, Vos MW, Janse CJ, Sauerwein RW, Khan SM. Removal of
heterologous sequences from Plasmodium falciparum mutants using FLPerecombinase. PLoS One. 2010 Nov 30;5(11):e15121.
3. van Dijk MR, van Schaijk BC, Khan SM, van Dooren MW, Ramesar J, Kaczanowski
S, van Gemert GJ, Kroeze H, Stunnenberg HG, Eling WM, Sauerwein RW, Waters
AP, Janse CJ. Three members of the 6-cys protein family of Plasmodium play a
role in gamete fertility. PLoS Pathog. 2010 Apr 8;6(4):e1000853.
4.
Silvestrini F, Lasonder E, Olivieri A, Camarda G, van Schaijk B, Sanchez M,
Younis Younis S, Sauerwein R, Alano P. Protein export marks the early phase of
gametocytogenesis of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Mol
Cell Proteomics. 2010 Jul;9(7):1437-48. Epub 2010 Mar 22.
5.
Roestenberg M, McCall M, Hopman J, Wiersma J, Luty AJ, van Gemert GJ, van
de Vegte-Bolmer M, van Schaijk B, Teelen K, Arens T, Spaarman L, de Mast
Q, Roeffen W, Snounou G, Rénia L, van der Ven A, Hermsen CC, Sauerwein R.
Protection against a malaria challenge by sporozoite inoculation. N Engl J Med.
2009 Jul 30;361(5):468-77.
6.
van Schaijk BC, Janse CJ, van Gemert GJ, van Dijk MR, Gego A, Franetich JF,
van de Vegte-Bolmer M, Yalaoui S, Silvie O, Hoffman SL, Waters AP, Mazier D,
Sauerwein RW, Khan SM. Gene disruption of Plasmodium falciparum p52 results
in attenuation of malaria liver stage development in cultured primary human
hepatocytes. PLoS One. 2008;3(10):e3549. Epub 2008 Oct 28.
7.
van Schaijk BC, van Dijk MR, van de Vegte-Bolmer M, van Gemert GJ, van
Dooren MW, Eksi S, Roeffen WF, Janse CJ, Waters AP, Sauerwein RW. Pfs47,
paralog of the male fertility factor Pfs48/45, is a female specific surface protein
in Plasmodium falciparum. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2006 Oct;149(2):216-22.
Epub 2006 Jun 19.
8.
van Dijk MR, Douradinha B, Franke-Fayard B, Heussler V, van Dooren MW,
van Schaijk B, van Gemert GJ, Sauerwein RW, Mota MM, Waters AP, Janse CJ.
Genetically attenuated, P36p-deficient malarial sporozoites induce protective
immunity and apoptosis of infected liver cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2005
Aug 23;102(34):12194-9. Epub 2005 Aug 15.
l 199
Dankwoord
Beste Robert, gelukkig werd het toch maar eens tijd dit proefschrift af te ronden. Bij het
inleveren van versie één van mijn inleiding schreef ik: “Hierbij het begin van het einde”
en je schreef terug “…of het einde van het begin.” Daar ben ik dan toch aanbeland,
bij het begin. Het was geen makkie, ook niet voor jou denk ik, al dat gedoe met DNA
elektroshock, kopie, knip, plak, kleuren, rondjes en ‘flipflop’. Robert ik wil je hartelijk
danken voor de kans die je me hebt gegeven (2 keer) en het vertrouwen. Ik ben heel
blij dat we nu naast elkaar staan, trots op wat we bereikt hebben binnen TIP en trots
dat we nu behoren tot een select groepje labs waar transfectie van falcip loopt als een
tierelier! Beste Chris, je staat al prominent op bijna alle papers in mijn lijst en toch had
ik je naam liefst nog een keer ingetikt voorin. Zonder de samenwerking met ‘Leiden’ was
ik hier nooit aanbeland. Bedankt dat je de samenwerking altijd zo heb gestimuleerd en
dat ik altijd welkom was in het lab. Milly, mijn officieuze begeleider, wat was ik verloren
geweest zonder je. Dank voor alle steun in het begin van het begin, ik kwam altijd terug
uit Leiden met nieuwe ideeën en goede moed wetende dat er één persoon was die de
falcip transfectie moeilijkheden begreep! Ik heb je altijd al een goede teach gevonden!
Fijn dat je nu goed op je plek zit. Maaike, bedankt voor de eerste constructen! Dear
Shahid, when are you going to follow Christy’s (and even Nadia’s) good example. Let this
be a good start: Shahid we stonden beiden voor een goede kans in het begin van TIP en
ik denk dat we hem gegrepen hebben. Je hebt een aantal goede ideeën gehad die zeker
een verschil hebben gemaakt in wat we in wpH voor elkaar hebben kunnen krijgen en
bedankt voor de hulp bij het schrijven. Daarnaast is het ook altijd lachen met je. Nu dit
achter de rug is lukt het vast om onze dochters samen te laten spelen. Dolly Parton,
talking to you without the urban dictionary is impossible, thanks for pointing it out and
thanks mostly for benign ab’s, the man hugs and wish you the best this world offers.
Takeshi, it was great to work with you and if I am ever in Japan... thanks for identifying
benign! To the rest of the Leiden parasitology group thanks for always a warm welcome!
Terug naar huis, naar de Malaria unit, waar het begon. Wijnand bedankt voor de start in
de malaria unit voor een map vol met ideeën voor proeven maar als belangrijkste voor
het nemen van het initiatief om het project te schrijven dat mijn promotieonderzoek
mogelijk heeft gemaakt (ook al probeert Willem daarvoor de credits op te eisen, toch
bedankt). Het was jammer dat je met pensioen ging maar ik snap het als geen ander (55
staat nog steeds). Geert-Jan, de eerste p47 transfecties hebben we samen gedaan, de
berghei proeven en daarna heb je enorm geholpen met álle muggen experimenten. Het
was, en is fijn altijd op je te kunnen bouwen! Tip van de dag: neem een zondag vrij en
200 l Chapter 10
ga lekker zeilen, op groot water zijn geen waterscooters, het zal je goed doen! Marga, je
hebt me ingewijd in de falcip kweek, lastig, tijdrovend, niet te voorspellen en vaak niet
aan anderen uit te leggen maar Ooo zulk belangrijk werk. Het vormt de basis van dit
proefschrift. Bedankt! Ik kom je vast nog tegen aan de Noorse of Zweedse kust. Suzy,
Henry, Rianne en Wouter, door jullie is en was het altijd leuk op je unit; jammer dat de
nieuwe zo gescheiden is. Rianne, wat een bijzondere tijd de afgelopen 2 jaar, leuk om de
babytalk met je te kunnen delen! Jolanda, Laura, Astrid en Jacqueline bedankt voor jullie
werk; zonder muggen en kundige handen voor dissectie geen malaria onderzoek. Tja, en
toen werd ik ruw bij de Malaria unit weg getrokken om naar “Medische Microbiologie”
in het NCMLS te gaan. Gelukkig was daar ‘labma’ Krientje, dank voor de hulp bij de
westerns in het begin of als ik weer een beetje mAb nodig had. Als het even kan val ik
voortaan iets minder vaak om 5 uur uit m’n bed (G-J) maar probeer de ochtend koffie
te halen; Karina en Geert-Jan het is altijd prettig wakker worden! Petra, buuv, heel erg
bedankt voor al je aanmoedigingen vanuit Schotland en tof dat we nog steeds aan het
samenwerken zijn. Liselotte, super bedankt voor een gezellig tijd als je weer in NL bent
een potje squashen? Ik geniet nog altijd van je reisverslagen zodat ik een beetje weet
hoe Afrika is omdat ik, als malaria onderzoeker, er zelf nog nooit geweest ben SCHANDE!
Mayke, tof tennis maatje van weleer, als je nog een keer verdwaalt in het ziekenhuis
mag je wel bellen hoor…. wat hebben wij gelachen. Ik hoop dat je het in je huidige werk
meer naar je zin hebt. Hoop snel weer eens bij te kletsen! Teun welkom terug! Wanneer
kan ik me aanmelden voor je cursus wetenschappelijke organisatie? Mike, dank voor
je ‘volhouden’ voorbeeld en heel veel succes met je nieuwe projecten. Adrian, bon
courage en Paris. De oudgedienden van de afdeling Rob, Will, Theo, Pieter en Jan-Peter,
dank voor de basis waar jullie veel van hebben opgebouwd. Maar Rob, karaktervorming
daar klopt toch echt niets van! Annemieke, bedankt voor de organisatie binnen TIP, de
waarschuwingen voor updates en die MTA’s (also things that can’t be rushed). Matt,
bedankt voor het initiatief van de vrijdagmiddag kroeg jij hebt de tijd nog meegemaakt
dat ik er wel altijd bij was! Yo Lino, what a coincidence you’re up the day after. Bon
courage and let’s hope for 2 nice party’s in a row! While on the topic, Krystelle je hoeft
echt geen belletjes aan je voeten hoor; het is altijd een leuke verrassing. Bedankt voor
hulp bij de FACS plaatjes en heel veel succes maar vooral fun in The States. Maarten, ik
verwacht van jou de ontwikkeling van een ‘fully refractory mug’ heel veel succes! Meta,
nu je in Leiden zit is er maar een plek waar onze GAP getest kan worden. Ga je nog een
keer me naar Bilthoven for the real deal? Anne en Anja bij voorbaat dank voor het testen
van de immunologie van ‘GPI’ (GAP protected individuals) en Else en Guido durven jullie
het aan? Ivo bedankt voor het uitzoeken welke GAP’s de beste zijn, en ook voor het niet
l 201
‘uit bed vallen’(weer G-J) het was lekker rustig in de ochtend in U-tje 3. Gelukkig was
er altijd een remedie als je té lastig werd; is je middenrif nog heel? Ivo, ik wens je veel
succes bij het afronden en ben benieuwd wat volgt.
Ik heb gedurende dit onderzoek met veel plezier een aantal studenten mogen begeleiden.
Annet, bedankt voor je aandeel in het maken van de groene vrouwen; binnenkort komt
het manuscript! Thomas, tja dat ging niet vlekkeloos maar eind goed al goed. Fay, het is
nooit te laat om succes te claimen. Een week geleden twee jaar na afloop van je stage
konden we ze pas testen; jouw recombinant heeft geleidt tot goede antilichamen en er
verschijnen binnenkort foto’s in een publicatie! Echt tof! Mark, bedankt voor het maken
van de groene mannen. Je hebt goed werk geleverd. Erg gaaf dat ik je veel succes met
je promotie kan wensen! Jorien knap dat je je zo snel het moleculaire werk hebt eigen
gemaakt jouw jck’s zijn nog steeds in gebruik. Succes met je nieuwe experiment de
leukste van allemaal kan ik je zeggen. Helmi thanks for following up Joriens work and
good luck with your PhD project.
Beste ‘buur virologen’, Kjersten, Mark en Dirk bedankt voor de pcr adviezen in het begin
en ook bedankt dat ik mee mocht doen met de voorraad enzymen enzovoort. Niet voor
niets luidt het gezegde: “Beter een goede buur dan een verre vriend”. Dat geldt niet
alleen voor jullie hulp en gezelligheid maar zeker ook voor de restjes koek en taart die
achterbleef; dan gedragen we ons zoals het een goede parasiet betaamt. Kjersten, van de
mensen die op het lab werken gaan wij samen het langst mee! (een paar uitzonderingen)
Maar wat hoor ik nu, je laat me achter en gaat mee naar Utrecht? Of? Els, was leuk om
bij te kletsen laatst bedankt voor je adviezen. Beste Frank, bedankt voor je interesse
in mijn werk zo vroeg in de ochtend. Ik vind het heel erg leuk voor je dat je Prof. Frank
wordt op de afdeling virologie, diergeneeskunde waar ik ben afgestudeerd. Beste Raoul
en Jolanda bedankt voor een leuk en uitdagend afstudeer project. Ik heb veel van
jullie geleerd en Raoul ik ben nooit vergeten dat je zei: ”Het krijgen van kinderen is een
ervaring die je niet aan je voorbij moet laten gaan, ook al gebeurt dat wel vaak in de
wetenschap”. Opgevolgd! Casper, bij mijn eerste stage is de interesse in het moleculaire
werk gestart. De manier waarop jij Southerns maakte gebruik ik nog altijd en ze staan
verspreid door het proefschrift!
Dear Adriana, I’m absolutely thrilled that we both made it; we sure had our doubts at
some point! We really deserve it. Wieteke and Richard (köszönöm) always great to hear
some more molecular parasitology thanks and hope we can get the new gametocyte
project done together. Wieteke, jeez you can give a fantastic impression of sheep! Sanna
en sinds kort ook Maarten, welkom bij de transfectie club leuk om met jullie ABC’s samen
202 l Chapter 10
te werken. Dear Kim and Saliha, it was great to visit the lab at Loyola, Chicago, thanks
for your expertise in the gametocyte work. Rob en Jeroen (CHL) dank voor jullie kundige
sorteer werk!
Mes amies en Paris: Dominique, Jean-François, Audrey, Olivier, Samir et Audrey, merci
beaucoup pour une très bonne collaboration. Notre projet ‘TIP’ c’était impossible sans
votre expertise du stadium de foie de maladie. Merci pour l’hospitalité, c´est toujours
une bonne expérience de travaille dans le labo U511. J’espère aux prochaine fois. JF, le
nouvelle anticorps sa marche; merci beaucoup pour ton intéresse tout le temps. Audrey
G. bon courage, aussi avec la poterie.
Mijn dank is groot aan TI Pharma. Het T4-102 project heeft het mogelijk gemaakt dat
ik dit proefschrift kon afmaken maar heeft me ook duidelijk gemaakt dat toegepast
onderzoek bij me past. Ik sta ook zeer achter het concept van public private partnership
en heb het als zeer positief ervaren dat binnen ons project de neuzen zo goed dezelfde
kant op stonden. To Steve and the Sanaria team, thanks for being an inspiration and
what a great example of ‘just’ doing what others think is impossible! I sincerely hope
that the vaccine will be a grand success and that the GAP we created will go straight into
the pipeline!
Beste Martijn, paranimf, het is alweer lang geleden dat ik de eerste falcip transfectie
voordeed en dat je de eerste malaria parasiet zag. We hebben de eerste tijd veel tijd
samen doorgebracht in de flow. Tig transfecties parallel waarbij kleur codes noodzakelijk
waren om bij te houden welke drugs er op de para’s moesten: BSD, WR of FC maar
een keer GAN, of PYR? Nee, dat was vroeger. Je ontpopte je gelijk als een uitstekend
moleculair tovenaar en niemand die nu beter weet hoe de constructen in elkaar zitten
dan jij. Sinds ik aan het schrijven van dit proefschift ben begonnen stond je er steeds
vaker alleen voor in de kweek. Ik ben blij dat ik het aan jou kon overlaten. Hoofdstuk 7
en 8 hebben we echt samen gedaan maar belangrijker nog is dat je mede het TIP project
succesvol hebt gemaakt. Ik dank je daar enorm voor en ben erg blij dat je 26 juni naast
me staat!
Frouke, Maaike en Jaco jullie waren bij het eerste begin. De lol die we altijd hebben gehad
zelfs tijdens weekendjes tentamens voorbereiden (waarbij Jaco natuurlijk weer als enige
een voldoende scoorde) was enorm. Ik vind het tof dat we het nog steeds super gezellig
met elkaar hebben ook met iedereen die bij ons groepje is gekomen Bram (die meer
van natuur weet dan de 4 biologen samen) Corné, Gerja en alle kids (en nog 2!). Olivier,
we kregen contact tijdens onze stages; samen naar planten genetica, samen naar viro
diergeneeskunde, beiden promotie onderzoek, post doc Ti Pharma, ik wil je danken voor
l 203
al je support en je enthousiasme! Nu komen we snel naar Sophie kijken! Sandra goede
text: ‘niet nadenken door tikken en afmaken’ dank voor je interesse gelukkig iemand in
de familie die het snapt! Rien en Annemie dank voor de ‘alleenstaande moeder oppas’
maar nu gaan we naar de Wadden in het weekend, zeilen jullie mee? Serge en Ilse, alvast
bedankt maar dat hoor je nog? Fijne schoonfamilie het is altijd leuk met jullie! En Vosjes,
idd de steen is over de dijk!
Erik, paranimf, ik ben blij dat jij naast me komt staan. Dank voor je interesse! Erik en
Joost idd 25 jaar geleden op het KWC en 25 jaar feest nu met Pauline en Bianca. Ik hoop
vaker nog de legendarische woorden te spreken: ”het isj hiew ook só gesjellich”. Michiel
en Stephanie: samen zeilen i.p.v. een brief encounter midden op de Noordzee? Arjan we
komen nu echt naar Ter Apel voor een beetje paarden inspiratie.
Aan iedereen die de ‘wanneer’ vraag stelde: Het antwoord is nu! En ik ben kei trots op
mijn eerste en laatste boek want laten we wel wezen, zo lang stil zitten is niets voor mij
zeker niet achter een computer. Dus iedereen, ook die ik niet met naam genoemd heb,
bedankt om allerlei redenen en ik zal nu wat vaker zeggen ‘‘Ja ‘tuurlijk komen we langs!’’.
Rita aka Tante Piet: Bon voyage, don’t forget to kiss the kids (ours)… wanneer ben je
nou weer eens in NL, Véél succes met Bloom. John en Miek, geen betere ouders zijn
denkbaar en zonder jullie onvoorwaardelijke steun en geloof in mij…. Mam dank voor
de gezelligheid die je altijd creëert, je gastvrijheid is een voorbeeld (ps sorry, maar de
maandagen zijn nu wel weer van mij!). Pap, hoe kan dat toch? Je snapt altijd direct wat
ik uitleg over de parasieten en je weet ook nog met weinig achtergrondkennis de juiste
vraag te stellen; er zijn weinig mensen met zoveel inzicht. Ook in de wetenschap had je
het goed gedaan! Bedankt, voor het meeleven en ik ben trots dat je mijn vader bent!
Daantje, wat een goede gedachtes daar op Texel. Het had niet beter kunnen gaan en
dat houden we zo in de toekomst. Ik kijk er alvast naar uit; dat licht blauwe bootje, even
dwars in de sloot want dat is makkelijker met de wind, ze wachten maar even. Heel veel
geduld heb je gehad de afgelopen tijd, dank daarvoor!
Lieve Danielle, Zoë en Siem nu is het onze tijd en niets of niemand komt daar nog tussen.
204 l Chapter 10
Curriculum Vitae
Op 24 december 1971 ben ik, Bernard Constantijn Lambert van Schaijk, geboren te Goirle.
Na het behalen van mijn propedeuse aan de Agrarische Hogeschool Delft, studierichting
Dierenhouderij en het behalen van het VWO certificaat Natuurkunde aan het Noctua
college te Den Haag (1994), ben ik verder gaan studeren aan de Universiteit Utrecht,
faculteit Biologie. Tijdens mijn studie raakte ik geïnteresseerd in de moleculaire biologie
en deze interesse heb ik verder uitgebouwd tijdens mijn eerste stage, moleculaire
genetica van planten. Tijdens mijn afstudeerstage ben ik in aanraking gekomen met de
moleculaire virologie aan de faculteit Diergeneeskunde, Universiteit Utrecht waar ik
werkte aan het Feline Infectious Peritonitis Virus (FIPV). Na afronding van mijn studie in
2001 leidde mijn grote interesse in de virologie tot mijn eerste baan aan dezelfde faculteit
echter, gedetacheerd aan ID-Lelystad alwaar ik werkte aan het Infectious Bursal Disease
Virus (IBDV). Na vertrek van mijn directe begeleider ben ik vervolgens in 2002 onderzoek
gaan verrichten aan de seksuele stadia van malaria parasieten op de afdeling Medische
Microbiologie van het Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen Medisch Centrum. Na een korte
onderbreking ben ik in 2008 gaan werken op dezelfde afdeling aan het genereren van
een genetisch verzwakt leverstadium malaria vaccin, mede mogelijk gemaakt door TIPharma. Beide projecten hebben geresulteerd in dit proefschrift.